06/29/2016, 17.12
SRI LANKA
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Sri Lanka army admits to the existence of a list with names of missing Tamil rebels who surrendered

by Melani Manel Perera

The names of the missing are still unknown, by a high ranking official admits that a list exists. In the final stages of the civil war thousands of young Tamil fighters handed in their weapons. Many of them are missing, presumed dead in extra-judicial killings.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Seven years after the end of Sri Lanka’s three-decade long civil war, the country’s Armed Forces might release the list of names Tamil Tiger rebels who surrendered but are missing.

Back in February, a high ranking official mentioned the list, but nothing more was said. Relatives of missing fighters who surrendered are still waiting to know more.

For the Campaign for Peace & Justice, "Many questions remain unresolved. What happened to the thousands of Tamil Tigers who surrendered? What about the civilians held by the military in the final stages of the war?”

On 24 June the Association of families of the disappeared protested near the bus terminal in Vavuniya, northern Sri Lanka. They accuse the military of being "eyewitnesses" to the disappearance of their loved ones.

In February 2009, as the Civil War reached its final stage, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and then Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, currently Skills Development and Vocational Training minister in President Maithripala Sirisena’s administration, offered rebel Tamil youth an amnesty if they surrendered and handed in their weapons.

Hundreds of young fighters are thought to have laid down their arms and voluntarily surrendered. Many thousands of civilians were taken into army-run refugee camps for interrogation and "rehabilitation".

"We lost track of many of those who ended up in military custody,” Campaign for Peace & Justice activists said.  “Families are still searching for answers to what happened to them.”

However, “There is strong evidence suggest that many of those who did come under the control of the Sri Lankan armed forces at the end of the war were extra-judicially killed.”

For activists the revelations in February by Major General Chanayaka Gunaratna, head of the 58th Army Division, are very important.

At a court hearing, he stated that “none of the missing people in question were on a list of names held by the army.”

The revelations have sparked fresh hope in families of the more than 24,000 missing people since it is the first time ever that a government representative admits to the existence of rebels who crossed over.

"We no longer call our children 'disappeared because of the conflict', but 'disappeared by the army and other security forces,” P Jeyawanitha, secretary of the Association of Families of the Disappeared, told AsiaNews.

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