by Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, Families of the Disappeared, Centre for Human Rights & Development and International Truth & Justice Project, June 13, 2023
This joint report examines Sri Lanka’s record of dealing with mass graves from multiple periods of conflict. All over the island, tens of thousands of bodies lie undiscovered in mass graves. Over the last three decades, around 20 mass graves have been partially exhumed; to date, hardly any family has had the remains of their loved ones returned.
None of Sri Lanka’s numerous Commissions of Inquiry were mandated to look into mass graves. Instead, efforts to uncover the truth have been stymied. Magistrates and forensic experts have been transferred abruptly, police have delayed carrying out judicial orders, families’ lawyers have been denied access to sites, no effort has been made to find living witnesses, no ante mortem data was collected and, in the very rare cases where someone was convicted, they were then pardoned. It is a story of a lack of political will – an inadequate legal framework, a lack of a coherent policy and of insufficient resources. For the families of the disappeared it is a story of unresolved tragedy; the bereaved are forced to live – and die – without ever finding their loved ones.