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Families of disappeared 'deeply frustrated by continued inaction' by Sri Lanka

Tamil families of the disappeared told the Sri Lankan president that they are “deeply frustrated” and had been “let down repeatedly by broken promises”, as they called on the government to ensure lists of surrendees, detainees under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), and all other indefinite detainees, be released within 20 days.

Meeting Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena for the third time since their protest began 270 days ago, relatives of the disappeared said the president had not fulfilled promises made in a meeting in June of this year.

“In Kilinochchi alone, five mothers have passed away,” they said in a letter to the president. “We are extremely frustrated that despite meetings with yourself and many other government officials, we still have come no closer to finding out the fates our disappeared loved ones, and have been let down repeatedly by broken promises.”

Speaking on the Office of Missing Persons (OMP), the relatives stated that “as we have said repeatedly, before we can consider engaging with the OMP, it is imperative that the promises you made to us”. Calling for the names of those detained by the government to be released “within 20 days of this meeting,” they added that “the imperative rests with the government to rebuild our confidence and demonstrate its political will to actually address the issue of enforced disappearances”.

With regards to the OMP, the families called for the commissioner selection process to be “transparent and accountable” and that the relatives of the disappeared were “involved as a stakeholder”. “As we have stated on a number of occasions, if the OMP is to be seen as even baseline credible, then the Constitutional Council must take our views seriously and include at least two representatives of the families of the disappeared and four Tamil-speaking commissioners,” they added.

“It is extremely important to us that alongside any truth-seeking mechanism into the issue of the disappeared, there is a credible prosecutorial mechanism,” the letter continued, highlighting earlier concerns regarding accountability. “Without such a mechanism it is hard for us to see how the OMP will work effectively, and also how we will ever receive justice for the horrific crimes that occurred.”

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena later tweeted that he was “committed to provide swift solutions” but did not elaborate further on what that entailed.

See the families' letter here.