Hundreds of Tamil mothers on August 12 took out a rally in Sri Lanka’s northern Kilinochchi district to mark 2,000 days of their relentless struggle, seeking truth and justice for their loved ones forcibly disappeared during and after the civil war.
A whole bunch of Tamil moms rallied in Sri Lanka’s northern Kilinochchi district on Friday to mark a 2,000-day protest demanding fact and justice for his or her family members who have been forcibly disappeared throughout and after the civil conflict. In Kilinochchi, girls carrying black sarees and headbands marched carrying pictures of their lacking family members. They chanted “The place are the kids who surrendered to the military?”,
The years that have passed since the armed conflict in Sri Lanka ended in 2009 have not brought solace to the families of the over 16,000 persons who, according to the ICRC’s records, remain missing.
The global human rights organization urged the Sri Lankan government to “urgently and genuinely” take account of the demands of families of the disappeared, “prioritize, respect and facilitate” the families’ rights to truth, justice and reparations without exerting pressure on them to close the cases on their missing loved ones.
Several groups of families, spread across Sri Lanka’s northern and eastern districts that were the site of the nearly three-decade war, have been persisting with their agitations, braving frequent intimidation by the military
Sri Lanka has one of the world’s highest number of disappearances, according to rights watchdog Amnesty International. There is a backlog of 60,000 to 1,00,000 complaints,
“Many of the mothers of these disappeared children, especially those depending on a daily wage job, are facing enormous hardships while continuing to agitate for justice. Some of them are eating only one or two meals instead of three because of the current situation,” Ms. Kohilavani said, pointing to the impact of the island’s harrowing economic crisis on the women. “No matter how hard things get, we will not stop demanding justice for our children,” she said.
“We’ve been agitating for 2,000 days now, but justice has not been served. We want to draw attention to our struggle and highlight this long-pending issue before the Human Rights Council session meets in Geneva next month,” Kadirgamanathan Kohilavani, leader of a Kilinochchi-based group of families of disappeared told The Hindu. “We really hope they [Council] will do something to ensure justice for us,” she said.
Amnesty International said in a tweet on Thursday. Pointing to “many incidents of state repression” including “intimidation, harassment and surveillance, restrictions on peaceful protests”, that are “long time challenges” for the families of the disappeared, the global human rights organizations urged Sri Lankan government to “urgently and genuinely” take account of the demands of families of the disappeared, “prioritize, respect and facilitate” the families’ rights to truth, justice and reparations without exerting pressure on them to close the cases on their missing loved ones.
Between October 2014 and November 2015, conducting an island-wide assessment, the ICRC met 395 families of missing persons, including those of missing security forces and police personnel, along with the authorities and organizations providing assistance to these victims.
According to the findings of the Families’ Needs Assessment, knowing what has happened to a missing relative is the most important of the many needs these families have. Until they find out, the families face emotional, economic, legal and administrative difficulties in their daily living.
Groups of families, spread across Sri Lanka’s northern and eastern districts that were the site of the nearly three-decade war, have been persisting with their agitations, braving frequent intimidation by the military and apparent insensitivity from political leaders. The groups have at times had differences, in their demands and as well as the strategy for their struggle, but are bound by a shared resolve to continue seeking answers to the troubling questions that haunt them every day. At least 138 people, mostly mothers of these disappeared children, have died during the struggle, according to the women involved in the demonstrations.
Rights groups and critics echo accusations that authorities have made little progress. KS Ratnavale, a lawyer who represents several war victims, said that families of missing people are “very much disenchanted”.
“They are on a war path because the government is unwilling to take on the security apparatus,” he told Al Jazeera. “Ultimately it is the army and the government who the people are alleging did this.”
Back in her home,Pushparani continues to wait for progress. “This was my youngest child,” she said. “We can’t imagine living without him.”
In the absence of rigorous investigation, the exact number of enforced disappearances is not known. According to the Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a total of 43,381 cases were reported to former commissions of inquiry in the late 1990s. A more recent commission of inquiry established in 2013 received around “18,099 civilian complaints
Families still wait for answers two years after the UN called on Sri Lanka to address war crimes and disappearances.
For the last several years Arulanadam Pushparani has not seen her son, who she says disappeared after being rounded up by security forces during Sri Lanka’s civil war.
During the final phases of that conflict, which stretched from 1983 until 2009, Pushparani was separated from her youngest son as they fled from shelling.
International humanitarian law casts an obligation on each party to the conflict to take all feasible measures to account for persons reported missing as a result of armed conflict and to provide their family members with any information it has on their fate.Based on the findings of this Assessment, the ICRC has shared its detailed recommendations confidentially with the Government of Sri Lanka to assist national authorities to address the issue of missing persons and their families in Sri Lanka in a comprehensive manner.
Kumarathasan Rasingam, Secretary, Tamil Canadian Elders for Human Rights Org.