TRG Calls for Action and Accountability Following UNHRC Report

on Sri Lanka’s Enforced Disappearances

by Tamil Rights Group, Markham, Canada, June 25, 2024

Markham, Canada – Over fifteen years following the end of Sri Lanka’s Genocidal war against Eelam Tamils, families of the forcibly disappeared are still searching for answers about the whereabouts of their loved ones. The recent UN Human Rights Office report released on May 17 highlights the ongoing issue of enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka and urges the Sri Lankan government to take action to strengthen their truth-seeking mechanisms and to ensure accountability for all perpetrators. Furthermore, on June 5, a report launch event titled “15 Years of Official Peace” convened to unveil the findings of this document and discuss the conclusion with panellists.

Contents of SLAP Report

This report, brought forward by the OHCHR Sri Lanka Accountability Project (SLAP), highlights the various barriers to justice within the country. This includes the widespread impunity, the shortcomings of the Office on Missing Persons (OMP), the lack of judicial independence, as well as the intimidation tactics carried out against the families of victims and other individuals who demand truth and justice for the disappeared. Notably, the report emphasizes the involvement of state security forces and associated paramilitary groups, urging the Sri Lankan government to acknowledge human rights violations and publicly apologize for its role in enforced disappearances. Drawing on bilateral interviews and focus groups, primarily with female family members of disappeared individuals, the report offers firsthand perspectives and poignant testimonies illustrating the struggle for justice.

“15 Years of Official Peace” Report Launch Event: Panel Discussions and Insights

Building upon the detailed findings and testimonies in the SLAP report, the “15 Years of Official Peace” report launch event on June 5, 2024 provided a platform for TRG to address these topics. Annemarie Devereux, head of the UN Sri Lanka Accountability Project, presented the key findings and engaged in discussions with panellists and the audience in the Senate Hall of Humboldt University, Berlin. The event was co-hosted by the human rights organizations Medico International, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), and Sri Lanka Advocacy. As panellist Anushani Alagarajah highlighted, the past and ongoing atrocities are leading to a lack of trust in domestic processes and a culture of impunity in Sri Lanka. She emphasized the traumatic experiences of the victims’ families to repeatedly state the same information without any progress. Shree Saroor pointed out that none of the current presidential candidates is interested in justice and accountability, and all domestic mechanisms aim to serve as signals to the international community instead of creating actual change. Overall, there was joint agreement that the extension of SLAP and leveraging international law mechanisms such as ICC and ICJ are critical to pursuing the path of justice.

Freedanz Ferdinandz, Co-Founder of Tamil Rights Group, observed positive outcomes. However, he expressed some concerns: ‘It was positive to see various stakeholders from German, Diaspora-Tamil and local Tamil civil society, public sector and human rights ecosystem eager to take the next steps towards justice and accountability outside of domestic mechanisms, as well as push for an extension of SLAP. In particular, the possibilities for collaboration between SLAP and different institutions regarding evidence gathering and documentation for a possible genocide case at ICJ was helpful. However, I would have expected more discussions on addressing the root causes and stopping the ongoing structural genocide by providing safe spaces for local civil society. As long as enforced disappearances and other war atrocities are not seen in the context of the genocide of the Eelam Tamil Nation since the independence of Ceylon, we will see another 15 years without any impact by the UN institutions.”

TRGs Commentary

Tamil Rights Group (TRG) welcomes the comments and issues raised in the UN report, as well as in the report launch, as it reiterated the same issues and causes of concern in the joint statement submitted by TRG to the Committee on Enforced Disappearances in February. It is encouraging that the OHCHR acknowledges and examines the concerns voiced by TRG, which may open up new avenues for continuing efforts to advocate for Tamil rights.

While the OHCHR report is a crucial step in the pursuit of justice for victims of enforced disappearances, the document does not address in detail the disproportionate impacts of enforced disappearances on Tamil communities in Sri Lanka’s North and East. Additionally, aside from recognizing the gender disparities of enforced disappearance victims, who happen to be overwhelmingly male, demographic information regarding the age, religion, language and other key identifiers of the victims was not sufficiently explored.

Concerns and Calls to Action

In furtherance of Volker Turk’s comments on March 1, 2024, the Sri Lankan government needs to address the root causes of the conflict with Tamils. This will also entail addressing the disenfranchisement of Tamils, as only once the root causes and disenfranchisement have been addressed and resolved will future disappearances be prevented and the current disappearances be effectively investigated. In addition to reviewing and addressing the root causes, the Sri Lankan government needs to implement institutionalized changes at the government, military, and police enforcement levels, as well as throughout the local communities, to ensure that not only is enforced disappearances prohibited but is punishable under the law.

Tamil Rights Group remains optimistic about cooperating with the OHCHR to further advocate for justice for victims of enforced disappearances and to allow the families of the missing to receive the long-overdue answers they are searching for. This new report gives the issue of enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka and related human rights violations in Sri Lanka a greater degree of visibility within the international community.

“The pain and uncertainty faced by the families of the disappeared are unimaginable, and their courage in seeking truth and justice is inspiring. The recent OHCHR report on the matter is indeed promising; however, it underscores that there remains significant work ahead. We urge governments and international organizations to take immediate and concrete steps to investigate these cases, hold perpetrators accountable, and support the families in their search for answers.”

– Navaratnam Srinarayanathas, President, Tamil Rights Group

For all enquiries:
Katpana Nagendra, General Secretary and Spokesperson
| + 1 (778) 870-5824


Tamil Rights Group (TRG) is an international not-for-profit organisation, headquartered in Markham, Canada, that seeks to further strengthen advocacy efforts for transitional justice and accountability for the Tamils of Lanka through international law measures, expanded global diplomacy, and defending their civil liberties within Sri Lanka. To this new chapter, TRG brings together a multigenerational team, deep networks within civil society in the traditional homelands and across the diaspora, and activists directly connected to the struggle for Tamil rights since the early 1970s.

Tamil Rights Group respectfully acknowledges that we are situated on the traditional territories of the Anishinaabe Peoples and of the Haudenosaunee Peoples. These territories are covered by the Upper Canada Treaties. The First Nations community in closest proximity to the City of Markham are the Chippewas of Georgina Island. We thank you for allowing us to continue our work in your territory.

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