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Sri Lanka's decision to issue 'missing certificates' to families of disappeared is met with outcry

Sri Lanka's cabinet of ministers approved a proposal to issue death or missing person certificates to disappeared persons and pay a 100,000 LKR one time allowance to their next of kin.

Media minister Dullas Alahpperuma announced at a press conference that the Registrar General has been advised to issue a certificate of death or certificate absence to missing persons after investigations into their disappearance is completed. A 100,000 LKR payment will be at the Registrar discretion based on the "particulars revealed by the Office of Missing Persons”. The minister also announced that the President will allow for land to be provided when necessary. 

“The president also advised that land also be provided to them if they have an issue pertaining to land,” he added.

Last month Tamil families of the disappeared across the North-East marched to mark 5 years of continuous protest demanding answers to the whereabouts of their loved ones.

Many of the families witnessed their relatives being taken into Sri Lankan military custody at the end of the armed conflict or they were abducted in white vans. 

Throughout their protest, Tamil families have maintained simple demands: 

1. Release a list of surrendees from the final phase of the armed conflict;

2. Release the yearly lists of detainees under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) since 1978;

3. Investigate and release the list of all past and present secret detention centres;

4. Continuously consult families to keep them at the centre of any solution; and

5. Commence all four transitional justice mechanisms in tandem, including a justice mechanism.

Although the families have been searching for justice, successive Sri Lankan governments have failed to address the fate of their disappeared loved ones, even after establishing the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) in 2017. Tamil families have repeatedly rejected domestic mechanisms as they have failed to meet any of the demands outlined by the families. 

Over 100 parents have died without knowing the truth about their disappeared children. Although many of the relatives are elderly and vulnerable and face routine harassment from the Sri Lankan authorities, they continue their struggle for justice and accountability. 

Multiple commentators have criticised the government announcement as another ploy to avoid justice and accountability. 






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