Daily World News Digest, 7 February 2017

Women in Sri Lanka use new law to seek missing loved ones: take RTI route to seek details on loved ones

The Colombo Gazette reported yesterday that a group of women in Batticaloa in eastern Sri Lanka are attempting to use the Right to Information (RTI) Act to locate their loves ones. After years of petitioning government offices and testifying to innumerable commissions, they have decided to use the new Act to seek information about their missing relatives. In June 2016, Sri Lanka’s Parliament unanimously adopted the RTI law, inspiring hope among citizens pushing for greater transparency and accountability. The Act came into effect on 3 February 3. The same day, nearly 15 women went on foot to the District Secretariat, the provincial and district police headquarters, the Human Rights Commission and the prisons department to submit applications asking for details about their disappeared family members. http://bit.ly/2jW0slB

Amnesty reports mass graves of dissidents held in Syrian jail

The Guardian reports today that as many as 13,000 opponents of Bashar al-Assad were secretly hanged in one of Syria’s most infamous prisons in the first five years of the country’s civil war as part of an extermination policy ordered by the highest levels of the Syrian government, according to Amnesty International. Many thousands more people held in Saydnaya prison died through torture and starvation, Amnesty said, and the bodies were dumped in two mass graves on the outskirts of Damascus between midnight and dawn most Tuesday mornings for at least five years. http://bit.ly/2lit8la

First Serbian Srebrenica trial opens in Belgrade

Balkan Insight publishes an article today about the trial of eight former Bosnian Serb police officers in Serbia, who have appeared in court charged with involvement in the massacre of Bosniaks from Srebrenica in July 1995. The first case to be prosecuted in Serbia related to that massacre. The Bosnian Serb special police unit are accused of organizing and participating in the shooting of more than 1,300 Bosniak civilians in an agricultural warehouse in the village of Kravica near Srebrenica in July 1995. http://bit.ly/2kzdHFY

Burundi: UN experts raise alarm at growing repression

ReliefWeb reported yesterday about a group of United Nations human rights experts that have condemned the recent ban and provisional suspension of a number of civil society organizations in Burundi. On 19 October 2016, the Burundian authorities banned five civil society organizations. In December 2016, the Ligue ITEKA, one of the leading human rights institutions of the country, which was suspended in October as well as OLUFAD – an NGO promoting good governance and the fight against corruption – were also barred. Another four organizations were provisionally suspended. These moves are just the latest in a series of attacks on the rights to freedom of expression and association in Burundi. The situation for human rights defenders has been dramatically deteriorating for more than a year and a half. Those who have not yet left the country fear for their life and are under relentless intimidation, threat of arbitrary detention, torture and enforced disappearance, the report says. http://bit.ly/2jXwkGz

Philippines: relatives of the missing protests outside Malalcañang Palace

ABC CBN News reported today on an attempt by guards at the Malalcañang Palace in Manila to stop a street rally urging President Duterte to continue peace talks with communist rebels. The protesters, mostly relatives of political prisoners and victims of enforced disappearances, gathered outside the palace, carrying banners saying “Resume peace talks” and a letter requesting an audience with Duterte. The situation escalated when members of the Presidential Security Group arrived to announce that mass actions in the area are prohibited. They seized banners and attempted to confiscate journalists’ camera footage of the incident. http://bit.ly/2liC4a7

Items in Daily World News Digest are summaries of published reports relevant to the issue of missing persons, compiled by ICMP staff. These items do not necessarily reflect the position of ICMP.