“Don’t give additional time to Sri Lanka,” mothers of disappeared persons tell the UN

Families of tens of thousands of Tamils are still waiting for justice for the mass atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan government during the civil war that lasted 26 years

February 26, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Protest in Sri Lanka urging the UN not to give more time to the Sri Lankan government for war crimes investigations
Protest in the Killinochi town of the Northern Province in Sri Lanka on February 25 (Photo: Tamil Mirror)

A huge protest, headed by the Tamil Mothers of Disappeared, was held in the Killinochi town of the Northern Province in Sri Lanka, demanding justice for war-time human rights abuses across the country. The protest followed the 40th session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) that began in Geneva on February 25. The protesters raised slogans, such as “Where is my son?” and “UN do not give additional time to Sri Lanka for war crimes investigations”, among others. Most of the business establishments and shops remained closed on Monday, in solidarity with the relatives of missing persons.

“Most of us personally and voluntarily handed-over many of our family members, including children, to the Sri Lankan security forces at the end of the war in May 2009 in reliance on assurances that they would be safe. But almost ten years have passed, but there is no answer from the government about those we surrendered and they all remain disappeared,” Tamil Mothers of the Disappeared wrote in a letter sent to the UN high-commissioner for human rights.

Even though the Sri Lankan war ended about ten years ago, the letter stated that, “Tamils are still waiting for justice for the mass atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan government. Tens of thousands of Tamils were killed, according to the UN and other international organizations, and numerous Tamil women were sexually assaulted and raped by the Sri Lankan security forces, in the final six months of the war that ended in May 2009.”

The UNHRC passed two resolutions on the abuses committed against the Tamil population, including the enforced disappearances. The Sri Lankan government voluntarily co-sponsored the resolution and assured the UNHRC that they will fulfill the requirements of the resolution: “But two year extension has passed but Sri Lanka did not fulfill its promise and voluntary commitment to the UNHRC,” it remarked.

In August last year, a large number of graves were discovered in Sri Lanka’s Mannar area. Many activists said that almost 300 people were dumped in this graveyard, and upto 23 of those could be children below the age of 12. The discovery of mass graves in the region has alarmed the relatives of enforced persons who are seeking justice. With the presence of a large number of security forces in the Tamil majority areas, as well as the government trying to delay the investigation process at the UNHRC, the Tamils are apprehensive that the evidence of war crimes, which includes the mass graves, can be destroyed and tampered with by the security forces.