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Justice in Sri Lanka: With just 273 political prisoners in custody, how many have disappeared?

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The only to way see justice in Sri Lanka is through international courts, said exiled journalist JS Tissainayagam writing in the Asian Correspondent on Wednesday.

Commenting on Sri Lanka’s assertion that only 300 prisoners were in the new government’s custody, Mr Tissainayagam said,

“The recent revelation that only 300 prisoners remain in Government custody only confirms that the crimes committed by the government are even more heinous than previously imagined. As such, no Sri Lanka government is going to facilitate the legal, administrative need to meet ‘international standards.’ The only way is for international justice to be dispensed by international courts.”

Stressing the need for the international community to investigate the whereabouts of those that are unaccounted for, he said,

“If it indeed turns out that there are only 300 political detainees in authorised prisons the government cannot simply wash its hand off by presuming the others are dead. It is the right of the families of the disappeared, whether their loved ones are in a prison or dead, to expect the government conduct a proper investigation, and if disappeared are found to have been killed provide the details of the deaths to next of kin.”

Mr Tissainayagam also questioned what the Tamil National Alliance was negotiating with the Sri Lankan government and if they would refute the government numbers and denial of the existence of secret detention camps.

Calling on the Tamil electorate to question the TNA, he said,

“It will be a pity indeed if the Tamil electorate does not use the opportunity of the elections to ask pointed questions as to TNA’s position on the political detainees and how it hopes to negotiate their release. And, in the event the government names only 300 in identified prisons, what concrete steps it is going to take with Colombo to elicit the truth about the fate of the others and ensure justice for the victims’ families.”

“The question then remains what is the TNA negotiating? The release of 300 prisoners only? What about the thousands of others whose families believe are  in Government custody? What is the TNA going to tell their families? If there are no black sites, what steps will the TNA take to confirm / refute this?”

Only 200 LTTE cadres in custody – Sri Lankan justice minster (09 June 2015)

Sri Lanka says no secret detention camps (11 May 2015)

Tamil man granted asylum in Switzerland after being deported, detained and abused in Sri Lanka (27 April 2015)

Government ministries refuse to release list of detainees (26 April 2015)

Sri Lanka justice minister denies mass detentions under anti-terror laws (02 April 2015)

Tamils still held in secret Sri Lankan military camps (31 March 2015)

Over 700 people held at secret army camp – TNA (20 February 2015)


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