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Presidential commission into disappearances continues hearings

Sri Lanka’s presidential commission into disappearances continued public sittings in Mullaitivu on Friday, where hundreds of people made submissions searching for their missing loved ones.

Approximately 290 people filed complaints before the commission, which continues despite government announcement in October that the process was to be scrapped.

Relatives who went before the commission criticised the process, saying that officials were attempting to persuade them to accept death certificates for their missing loved ones. However, they refused.

“We hope that our relatives are alive and under army custody,” said one person who went before the commission on Friday. “We asked them to help us find our loved ones.”

Reports of the commission encouraging relatives to accept their loved ones have died have been ongoing, with evidence that officials offered chickens in exchange for accepting a death certificates.

Earlier this year Sri Lankan Prime Minsiter Ranil Wickeremsinghe claimed the tens of thousands of missing across the North-East were “probably dead” without any further clarification on the disappearances, sparking grief and concern amongst many Tamils. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Special Rapporteur Pablo de Greiff expressed concern at his comments, and called for further clarification.

The commission has also been criticised by both the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, who have called for its abolition.

The chairman of Sri Lanka’s presidential commission Justice Maxwell Paranagama has slammed the UN human rights chief in previous statements and called the reports of over 40,000 Tamil civilians having been killed during the final stages of Sri Lanka’s armed conflict is a “myth”.

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