Colombo, May 23 (NIA) – Hundreds of mothers in Sri Lanka’s former war torn north, whose loved ones are missing even eights years after the island’s deadly civil war ended, have urged the new United Nations General Secretary to probe the whereabouts of their family members.
In a letter sent to the UN Chief, António Guterres, the mothers have alleged that thousands are still missing even after the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009 and the government had done little to launch a probe to locate their whereabouts.
Sri Lanka’s deadly civil conflict between government troops and the Tamil Tiger rebels ended in May 2009, ending 30 years of bloodshed and violence in the island country.
The United Nations has alleged that 40,000 civilians, mainly minority Tamils were killed in the finals months of the conflict and have been calling for an international war crimes probe.
The UN High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, in his report released in September 2015 noted that the UN had found evidence “strongly indicating” that war crimes were committed in Sri Lanka in the closing phases of its civil war, and called for the establishment of a special “hybrid” international court to investigate individuals responsible for the atrocities.
The call however has been continuously rejected, by both the previous government of Mahinda Rajapakse and the present government of Maithripala Sirisena.
Sirisena’s government, however, after engaging with the UN and the international community assured it would launch a domestic mechanism to probe the allegations of war crimes and the domestic probe would meet international standards.
The government has also maintained that it would ensure justice for the victims affected by the conflict and would do everything possible to bring in lasting peace and reconciliation.
In their letter however sent to the UN Chief on Tuesday, the mothers of the disappeared alleged that although eights years have passed since the end of the conflict they had no idea on the whereabouts of their loved ones.
“For three long months we have been continuously staging protests by the roadside to draw the world’s attention to our agonizing plight. We just want to know what happened to our beloved sons and daughters, our husbands and wives and our grandchildren who have disappeared,” the letter said.
“After eight years we need the truth but the Government of Sri Lanka, which claims to believe in transitional justice, has ignored us, trampled on our feelings and shown us nothing but disrespect. Basic human dignity means we should be heard.”
“In our small district alone there are at least 1,200 people who disappeared at the end of the civil war in 2009. This figure includes those who surrendered to the army and those who were identified as suspects while in custody and taken away. Some were abducted before and after the end of the war; others surrendered in an orderly fashion under the protection of a Catholic priest on the last day of the war, but the priest, Father Francis Joseph, and the people with him have all disappeared without trace, including several young children from our families.”
“Our members are already badly affected physically and psychologically by the disappearance of their loved ones, and are becoming weaker and weaker. No one from the iNGOs, or the Government or the International Community has responded to our plea. We would like to spend at least a few days with our children before we die.”