ICMP Welcomes “Important Opportunity” to Account for Missing Persons in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

18 September 2015: ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger has welcomed this week’s announcement by the Sri Lankan government that it will establish “independent, credible and empowered mechanisms for truth seeking, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence” in regard to war crimes, including enforced disappearances, perpetrated during the conflict that ended in 2009.

Among other things, the government proposes to establish a Commission for Truth, an Office on Missing Persons, and an Office for Reparations.

On Wednesday UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called for “a hybrid special court, integrating international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators” to examine crimes committed during the conflict in Sri Lanka.

“There is now an important opportunity for all stakeholders in Sri Lanka, together with constructive assistance from international partners, to address the issue of those who went  missing during the conflict,” Ms. Bomberger said. “The fact is that truth seeking, including accounting for the missing is an indispensable component of post-war recovery.”

Ms. Bomberger stressed that Sri Lanka, like other countries, must act according to international norms. “States have to recognize their responsibilities,” she said. “When they approach the authorities seeking information about the fate of loved ones, families are seeking to access their rights under the law.”

She alluded to the principles enshrined in ICMP’s Declaration on the Role of the State in Addressing the Issue of Persons Missing as a Consequence of Armed Conflict and Human Rights Abuses, which asserts that addressing the issue of missing persons is a responsibility of the state and which requires state signatories to uphold the rights of survivors, including the rights of families of the missing to know the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones. The Declaration also requires signatories to “strengthen domestic capacities to effectively address the problem of missing persons”.

“The government of Sri Lanka has expressed a commitment to pursue the issue of missing persons in an inclusive and constructive way and this can only be positive for all the people of Sri Lanka,” Ms. Bomberger said. “The right to the truth is a basic human right, and there are various ways in which this right can be upheld.”

ICMP is an international organization whose mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating and identifying missing persons from conflict, migration, human rights abuses, disasters, crime and other causes.