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Sri Lankan breakthrough on missing persons

COLOMBO (AsiaNews): The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sri Lanka and a delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross met on February 15 to discuss the latest government report on Needs of the Families of Missing Persons in Sri Lanka: Living with Uncertainty.

The meeting was chaired by the deputy foreign minister, Harsha de Silva, who reiterated that the government of the current president, Sirisena, and prime minister, Wickremesinghe, recognises the importance of dealing with the issues related to the families of missing persons.

He said that this was the rationale behind its decision to establish by statute an Office on Missing Persons, to operate on the basis that families have a right to know what has happened to their loved ones.

The meeting comes just a few days after the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, paid a visit to the country and urged it to defeat the demons of its 30-year conflict, which saw the Sri Lankan military pitted against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

De Silva stressed the achievements of the current Sri Lankan government, which has signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which the UN General Assembly adopted in 2006.

For the first time in 16 years the Sri Lankan government will allow the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances to visit the country and has approved, pending parliamentary approval, the issuance of Certificates of Absence for the missing.

Foreign affairs minister, Mangala Samaraweera, stressed the need for reconciliation in the country and appealed to the victims on both sides to join the consultation process.

“There are many here today who still have fears and doubts,” Samaraweera said. 


However, he adds that the process of reconciliation must be undertaken not to appease international pressure or to keep the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights happy, but because, “We owe it to the people of our nation to forge a new future where all citizens will be treated with equal dignity and respect.”

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