Amnesty on Enforced Disappearances

by Amnesty International statement to US Congress’ Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on Latin America, October 1, 2020

Sri Lanka:  Sri Lanka has one of the world’s highest number of enforced disappearances, with estimates ranging from 60,000 to 100,000 arising in connection with internal armed conflicts since the late 1980s. One emblematic case is the disappeared journalist and cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda. He went missing after leaving work on January 24, 2010. Two days earlier, he had published an article critical of then President Mahinda Rajapaksa. After nearly ten years of no progress on his case, the government finally indicted nine military intelligence members in November 2019 for his abduction and killing. The trial finally began last month. Amnesty International is monitoring the trial closely to see whether truth and justice will finally be provided to his relatives…

Conclusions:  Enforced disappearance is frequently used as a strategy to spread terror within society. The feeling of insecurity and fear it generates is not limited to the close relatives of the disappeared, but also affects communities and society as a whole. Family and friends of people who have disappeared experience slow mental anguish. Not knowing whether their son or daughter, mother or father is still alive. Not knowing where they are being held, or how they are being treated. Searching for the truth may put the whole family in great danger. Not knowing if their loved one will ever return often leaves their relatives living in limbo.

Disappearances happen in every region in the world and in a wide range of contexts. They are commonly carried out in internal conflicts, particularly by governments trying to repress political opponents or by armed opposition groups. This is a global human rights issue that demands the attention of all government. Congress must ensure the United States does its part to stop the devastating practice of enforced disappearances in Latin America and around the world.

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