Feature Article
2ND LEAD (Adds full text of the appeal)

International Women's Day: Families of missing condemn UN failure to deliver international justice

[TamilNet, Monday, 09 March 2020, 14:33 GMT]
The UN Human Rights Council based discourse has failed to deliver justice to the families of Eezham Tamils, who were subjected to enforced disappearance at the hands of the occupying Sinhala military, particularly during the 2009 genocidal onslaught. The victims have thoroughly rejected the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) as a farce. However, the Geneva-based UN rights institutions continue to uphold the deceptive OMP as a positive achievement, despite repeated appeals from the organisations representing the kith and kin of the persons subjected to enforced disappearances. The Geneva-based system was closing its eyes to the truth, and turning deaf ears to the three-year-long protests, the protesting mothers complained on International Women's Day. Hundreds of people gathered to express solidarity with the protesting mothers at Mullaith-theevu on Sunday.

Protest in Mullaiththeevu on 08 May 2020

Protest in Mullaiththeevu on 08 May 2020
It was the failure of the UNHRC and associated mechanisms to bring international investigations on Tamil genocide that emboldened the SL State to dodge even what it agreed to do, the protesting mothers complained.

They were demanding the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, her office and the UNHRC to urge the UN Security Council to refer the SL State to the ICC Prosecutor by passing a resolution authorised by the UN Charter.

If there are concerns over any Security Council permanent member vetoing the move, let it happen. Eezham Tamils and the global humanity need to know the powers that are opposed to them, the activists who took part in the protest told TamilNet.

Protest in Mullaiththeevu on 08 May 2020

The SL State signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances in December 2015.

However, the SL State has been openly violating the Article 2 of the Convention by refusing to accept the crime and concealing the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared Tamils at the hands of the SL military.

Article 2

For the purposes of this Convention, "enforced disappearance" is considered to be the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.

The organisations representing the mothers and wives of the missing as well as other survivors of the families have prepared an appeal to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and the UNHRC.

The appeal states that there is no use in urging the SL State to abide by Resolution 30/1 anymore. So far, the UNHRC has been extending time and space to the SL State to dodge accountability. The UN Rights Chief must refer the case to the International Criminal Court through urging the UN Security Council to pass a resolution to that effect, the appeal stated.

Protest in Mullaiththeevu on 08 May 2020

Operationalisation institutions such as the OMP was to be carried out incorporating the consultations of the affected party. However, the recommendations of such processes were ignored by the SL State, the appeal explained.

Former SL President Maithiripala Sirisena promised to establish the whereabouts of the persons subjected to enforced disappearances. But, he ended up refusing state responsibility violating the commitments made by the SL State at the UNHRC.

The continuous protests were launched on 08 March 2017 as a collective struggle, the appeal observed.

After Sirisena's denial, the protesters lost hope in the so-called “good governance” regime and started to demand international investigations, notably since 16 November 2017, the appeal stated further.

The representatives of the continuous protest also went to Geneva and explained why they rejected the OMP. The organisations also gave five emblematic cases to test the OMP. But nothing happened.

In the meantime, seventy parents of the missing persons have perished during the last three years of the continuous protest, the organisers said.

Full text of the appeal prepared by the Association for Relatives of the Enforced Disappearances - North&East Provinces, follow:

Ms.Michelle Bachelet
Hon. UN High Commissioner,

Dear Madam,

We the relatives of the enforced disappearances in the North and East of Sri Lanka who had been searching our loved ones more than eight years individually had merged ourselves as a union and commenced our incessant attention drawing struggle effective from 08 March 2017 .

Today we are stepping on the 4th year of the protest completing three years . Within the three years already 71 kith and kins of the disappeared who had been participating in our struggle had died without any answers for their grievances.

We had handed over our loved ones to the Sri Lankan army after the end of the war in 2009 May believing the fictitious promise of the Sri Lankan Government. More over many had surrendered in our presence on their own. Some were taken by the army for interrogation, and some were receiving treatment for the injurious sustained due to shelling attack. In addition some were abducted by the arm forces and the military intelligences by white vans during this period in the army controlled areas.

The former Sri Lankan president Mr.Mithripala Srisena had, promised to release the list of detainees but failed to do so. Since we knew that we will not be meted out with the fair justice from the Sri Lankan Government, we had commenced towards world’s nation invoking justice from them effective from 16.11.2017.

Consultation Task Force(CTF) constituted by the Sri Lanka government in accordance with the Resolution 30/1, by the UN in 2015. The UN also had failed to realize the fact as to how it is possible for the four mechanisms duly established by the Sri Lankan government, ignoring the recommendations of the CTF ,could mete out justice for the affected people.

We, the relatives of the enforced disappearances who participate at the UN sessions since March 2018 had been repeatedly pointing out the short comings and the inefficiency of the OMP at the forum. We had been continuously rebuffing this OMP totally. Notwithstanding, the UN had, while appreciating the powerless OMP, given time extension to the Sri Lanka government in order to enforce these four mechanism.

We had arranged a meeting with the OMP commissioners on the May17th 2019. In this meeting after elaborate discussion, we had reached an agreement and by which we will hand over details of five disappeared persons with concrete testimonies and the OMP should find solution for at least one case, within three months time. But the OMP could not found solution till to date with no investigations carried out so far. At this stage the Chairman of the OMP Mr,Shaliya Peris released an official statement on the 3rd March 2020. Accordingly they have released a list of disappearances on the 28th February 2020 while marking the OMP’s second anniversary and recommended for a need to implement a mechanism a fresh with comprehensive mandate .The OMP had only now ,after two years time released the collected name list of the disappeared and realized the powerlessness of the OMP .

The Sri Lankan Government which had been prolonging five years time by co sponsoring to the UN resolution 30/1 had now trying to drag further time by enforcing internal mechanism and dilute the disappearance case. Hence the UN cannot mete out justice to the affected people by insisting Sri Lanka to enforce the Resolution 30/1.

We urge the UNHRC, to recommend the UN security council to refer Sri Lanka either to a special Tribunal or to the ICC without further delay.



* * *

Walden Bello, a Filipino academic and rights activist recently interviewed Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso, who served as the Secretary-General of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) from its founding in June 1998 until July 2019. She was also the focal person of the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearance (ICAED) from 2010 until July 2019.

Ms Diez-Bacalso, who actively participated in the drafting of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and who formed AFAD, was bestowed the prestigious Franco-German Ministerial Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law at the Embassy of France in Manila on 12 December 2019.

Diez-Bacalso became an activist after her husband was subjected to enforced disappearance in 1988. He was later released.

Her organisation, the AFAD, has reported the highest number of cases of enforced disappearances to the United Nations.

In the interview published by Rappler, a Philippine-based online news website, on 07 March, Bello posed a question to Diez-Bacalso on the cases of the disappeared in other countries. In her response, she referred the issue of the enforced disappearances of Tamils in the island as the worst case she had witnessed.

The question posed by Walden Bello and the response by Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso follow:

Have you done work on the cases of the disappeared in other countries? How were those experiences similar or different to what you encountered in the Philippines?

Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso: I’ve been engaged in work on the disappeared in Latin America, Africa, and even Europe, but most of my direct work has been in Asia, as secretary general of the Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearances.

Probably the worst is Sri Lanka, where some 60,000 people were disappeared, most of them owing to the government’s draconian effort to subdue the Tamil Tigers.

In Kashmir, there are about 8,000 documented cases, many of which are of people reported to have been thrown into mass graves.

In Pakistan, there is a phenomenon of “surfaced disappeared.” The victims disappeared and after many years, returned alive – but heavily tortured and their minds permanently damaged.

In Bangladesh, we have people disappearing owing to the government’s “war on drugs,” following Duterte’s example.

Related Articles:
22.03.19   UNHRC ‘Sri Lanka’ roadmap premeditated not to deliver genoci..

External Links:
Rappler: Looking for the disappeared



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