by Athula Vithanage, ‘Jounalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, Europe, May 15, 2018
Sri Lanka has been urged to probe two of its highly decorated commanders for the inauguration of the much delayed Office of the Missing Persons (OMP).
The OMP that plans to “address the suffering” of a multitude of disappeared commenced meeting victims on 12 May.
Three days later, a human rights organisation documenting wartime atrocities have called upon the OMP to question its war time commanders over hundreds of cases of enforced disappearance that took place on the final day of the civil war in 2009.
The Johannesburg based International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) launching a website listing 280 names of enforced disappearance in Sri Lanka all on one day, named two senior military figures as those who should be probed by the OMP.
29 missing children
“This is the largest single group of enforced disappearance in Sri Lanka’s history – hundreds of people disappearing at the same time and place with multiple eyewitnesses both inside and outside the country,” said the International Truth and Justice Project’s Executive Director, Yasmin Sooka.
“We have written to the Office of Missing Persons saying this is the first case they should investigate if they are serious about criminal accountability for enforced disappearance. They can start by questioning Major General Shavendra Silva and General Jagath Jayasuriya, whom eyewitnesses say personally observed the surrenders and those security forces in whose custody they were placed.”
Among those who disappeared were at least 29 Tamil children, last seen with their families in the custody of the Sri Lankan Army on or around 18 May 2009 in what are regarded as classic cases of enforced disappearance in accordance with international law, says ITJP.
‘Not a compete list’
It calls upon the public to provide any missing information.
“We urge anyone with information or photos to contact us by email in English or Tamil,” said the ITJP’s Executive Director Yasmin Sooka.
“This is by no means a complete list or a perfect one but it is a start and what it reveals is that the extent of the crime is much larger than previously known.”
Tamil women who attended the first OMP inquiry in the northwestern town of Mannar, expressed fear of coming under threat by the military for providing information.
“I have stopped going to any of the government inquiries as I cant leave my girls at home, who will be visited by the military as soon as I am out,” said one mother.
Head of OMP, Saliya Peiris says that more than 250 relatives of the disappeared were present at the first day of inquiry.