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Standoff between Sri Lankan police and Tamils protesting PM's visit to Jaffna

Sri Lankan police officers pushed back Tamil families of the disappeared into their bus to block them from attending a rally opposing the Sri Lankan Prime Minister's visit to Jaffna. 

Tamil families of the disappeared had planned to stage a protest outside the Economic Centre which Mahinda Rajapaksa was visiting during his two day trip to Jaffna, to demand justice for the atrocities perpetrated against Tamils by the state. However, Sri Lankan police officers were heavily deployed in the area to block the protesters from surrounding the venue. 

Civil society leader Velan Swamikal, who was travelling in another vehicle, was also stopped by the police to prevent him from attending the demonstration. 

Sri Lankan security forces beefed up their deployment today after Tamils halted the Sri Lankan Prime Minister's plans to lay a foundation stone for a Buddhist temple yesterday amidst ongoing state sponsored Sinhalisation efforts in the North-East. 

The protesters proceeded to tear down and burn banners that were erected ahead of Mahinda's visit to express their frustration and opposition to the Rajapaksa regime. 

The Tamil families of the disappeared and civil society have been calling on the international community since the end of the armed conflict to investigate human rights abuses and enforced disappearances perpetrated by Sri Lanka. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the then President of Sri Lanka, and his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa who served as the Defence Secretary, oversaw the genocidal offensive which killed tens of thousands of Tamils at the end of the armed conflict in May 2009. 

Despite multiple pledges from successive governments to investigate the abuses through domestic mechanisms, no one has been held accountable for any human rights abuses. Instead, since the Rajapaksa brothers took office in 2019, those credibly accused of war crimes have been appointed to senior positions and shielded from any accountability mechanisms. 

Earlier this week, 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. Tamil families of the disappeared and civil society actors have slammed the proposal for failing to meet their demands. 

Tamil families of the disappeared have been calling on the Sri Lankan government to: 

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.

13 years have passed since the end of the armed conflict and yet no one has been held accountable for the war crimes perpetrated against Tamils in the North-East. 

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