07/25/2017, 20.03
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Sri Lanka: An office to find out the truth about loved ones who disappeared during the Civil War

by Melani Manel Perera

NGOs, some foreign governments, and civil society are pressing for it to become operational as soon as possible. For Amnesty International, "comforting words must be followed by firm action. Only justice can heal the wounds of the Srilankans ". Fernando Brito: "Muslims, Sinhalese and Tamil disappeared without distinction, and all of them had the right to live."       

Colombo (AsiaNews) - "The people of Sri Lanka can no longer wait. Tens of thousands of families, from all communities, have already waited too long. The Office for Missing Persons (Omp) must be established as soon as possible”, appeals Biraj Patnaik, director of Amnesty International (AI) in South Asia.

The Omp, whose creation was announced by a bill in May 2016, is slated to investigate the disappearance of more than 20,000 people during the civil war that has afflicted the country for 30 years, recommending compensation to families and giving them the possibility of legal action against the perpetrators. Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena signed the "Missing Persons Act" last week.

There is no news of thousands of people who, among the missing, were arrested or handed over to the army during or after the war.

Along with AI, even the UN, some foreign governments, human rights organizations demand that the Sri Lankan government start applying the law signed by the President as soon as possible. For Patnaik, "comforting words must be followed by firm action. Only justice can heal the wounds of the Sri Lankans".

Brito Fernando, chair of the Families of the Disappeared Group (FOD), told AsiaNews that "this is a good move by Maithripala" because the former president and his government, together with some Buddhist monks, had opposed the Omp. However, evenwhile "thanking the government for this decision, we, as civil society organizations, demand that it speeds up work." "We also ask that the Buddhist monks, who opposed the Omp because they believed it would harm our soldiers, not to point their finger at the Tamil people and not to neglect what happened in 1989 in the southern provinces. Do not you want to know what happen? How many Buddhist monks disappeared in 1989? " Brito added. "Muslims, Sinhalese and Tamil disappeared without distinction, and all of them had the right to live."

Kasipillai Jeyavanitha, mother of Kasipillai Jeromi, a young man who disappeared from the Vavuniya district, told AsiaNews: "Our lives have been consumed by our protest to know what happened to our children, husbands and loved ones. Now at least, this Omp should respond without cheating us once again. " Thambirasa Selvarani, whose husband disappeared at Omanthe's checkpoint in 2009, asks Omp to "reveal the fate of our relatives who disappeared before and after the war. Now we have no more time to waste on the streets in protest. "

Numerous silent protests have spread to the northern province, asking for answers to "what has happened to missing loved ones". The protests remained for 150 days in the street, mostly led by Tamil women.

In signing the Omp Act, the president has passed one of the four specific mechanisms provided for in the UN Human Rights Council's 2015 "Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka" resolution.

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