The Amnesty International (AI) today called on the Sri Lankan government to provide information to the families of the disappeared, with detailed lists and information of persons who surrendered to the armed forces in the final phase of the war.
In a statement, the AI said according to surviving family members, more than 100 cadres of the LTTE, who surrendered to the Sri Lankan army in May 2009, have disappeared.
“Reportedly, one group of surrenders was led by Father Francis Joseph, a Catholic Priest who was disappeared thereafter. According to family members who witnessed the surrenders, they were transported from the site by the army in a convoy of buses,” it said.
It said the families of the disappeared had filed habeas corpus applications in 2013, seeking information about their whereabouts.
“They claim to have last seen their family members in the custody of the 58th Division of the Sri Lankan Army. In February 2016, the General Officer Commanding of the Division, Major General Kavinda Chanakya Gunawardena was ordered to submit the list to the Mullaitivu Magistrate court before 19 April 2016. Subsequent to failing to produce this list on two occasions, the Magistrate in late September 2016 ordered the Criminal Investigation Department to investigate,” it said.
It said President Maithripala Sirisena who is also the Chairperson of the National Security Council promised that he would instruct the Council to release lists of persons who surrendered to the Armed forces in the final phase of the war.
“However, 11 months later these lists have not been released. The mass disappearance of those who surrendered at the end of the war is a clear indication of the institutionalization of the practice of enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka,” the AI said.
It said Sri Lanka has one of the world’s highest number of disappearances, with a backlog of between 60,000 and 100,000 alleged disappearances since the late 1980s.
Meanwhile, it said Sri Lanka has made welcome progress on the issue of disappearances with the criminalization of enforced disappearances in March 2018.
“However, the Sri Lankan government must support the spirit of these measures by proactively supporting truth-seeking efforts by the families of the disappeared to get answers, almost a decade after the end of the armed conflict. Likewise, Sri Lanka should promptly recognize the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of victims or their relatives,” the statement said.