Several diplomats in Sri Lanka took to Twitter to call for answers on the International Day of the Disappeared, as Tamil families of the disappeared protested across the North-East.
The UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, Hanaa Singer tweeted ‘I stand with the families of victims of #enforceddisappearances from all communities across #SriLanka. These families endure severe mental anguish; therefore it is vital that those who work in aid of seeking redress for victims continue their work’.
The US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Alaina B. Teplitz expressed in a tweet ‘Ending #EnforcedDisappearances is not enough. Families are entitled to answers. @ompsrilanka’s work is extremely important for families today and for generations to come’.
The establishment of the Office for Missing Persons (OMP) over two years ago was hailed by the international community as an important step in the path to justice for enforced disappearances, despite the rejection of a domestic mechanism by Tamil families of the disappeared. Today, protesting families again restated their rejection of the OMP, the failure of the office to make any progress.
The British High Commission in Sri Lanka tweeted ‘On International Day of the Victims of ‘EnforcedDisappearances we remember all those who have #disappeared, their families and loved ones who continue to search for answers, and all those who work tirelessly to provide them with justice and closure’.
The Canadian High Commission in Sri Lanka stated in their tweet, ‘Decades of conflict and impunity in #SriLanka have left tens of thousands of families without loved ones and without answers. On #InternationalDayoftheDisappeared, our thoughts are with the families of the disappeared searching for answers’.
The delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka said 'Today is #InternationalDayoftheDisappeared, a day to draw attention to the individuals whose fate remains unknown to their relatives and friends. This is the day to show solidarity with families in Sri Lanka and around the world who are missing their loved ones.'
There is an estimate of 60,000 - 100,000 disappearances from the 1980s until the end of the armed conflict.
To mark the International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances, families of the disappeared have organised large scale protests across the North-East despite "an increasing clampdown on dissent by the Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist government," People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL) has reported.
The families of the disappeared have released a set of demands to the international community as they have lost faith in any domestic processes. The demands are:
- The release of any information on all currently detained political prisoners;
- Information on all those who were kidnapped and/or kept in refugee camps before and after the war and;
- The immediate release of any prisoner currently being detained.
While Tamil families, mostly women, have been campaigning for over a decade, they have been continuously protesting for over 1,250 days, demanding the fate of their relatives to be revealed. Since the beginning of their protests, over 73 relatives have passed away without knowing the fate of their loved ones.
Read more from PEARL here.