05/18/2018, 19.03
SRI LANKA
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List of 280 missing people includes 28 Tamil children

by Melani Manel Perera

Eyewitnesses place two senior army officers at the place where the missing disappeared. The military is hostile to the website set up to to make public the names of the missing people.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The list of 280 people who went missing in 2009, during the last weeks of the civil war fought between the regular army and the Tamil Tigers rebels, include at least 29 Tamil children, this according International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP), a South African-based NGO.

"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 ITJP Executive Director Yasmin Sooka.

"We have written to the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) saying this is the first case they should investigate if they are serious about criminal accountability for enforced disappearance,” she added.

“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." She added.

The NGO notes that the children went missing on 18 May when former president Mahinda Rajapaksa announced victory and the end of hostilities.

According to UN investigators, the 58th Division was led at the time by General Silva, an alleged war criminal who was promoted by the current government to the post of Adjutant General of the Sri Lankan Army.

ITJP believes that General Silva was present on the Wadduvakkal bridge on 18 May 2009 to welcome the surrender of Tamil rebels accompanied by Fr Francis Joseph, a Catholic priest who also died at the hands of security forces.

The South African NGO has also complained that Sri Lanka’s military has been hostile to the website (in English and Tamil) set up to make public the names of the missing people. Some of the boxes on the website have been left empty to indicate that the list is not final.

"We urge anyone with information or photos to contact us by email in English or Tamil," said Ms 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."

Photo credit: Melani Manel Perera

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