Victims outraged by efforts to protect military from prosecution for war crimes

Tamil war victims in Sri Lanka have slammed the government and main opposition for ensuring that the military is protected from prosecution when setting up a body to trace country’s disappeared.

Relatives who have repeatedly called for justice and demanded to know the fate of the disappeared over any compensation offer, said that the government had ‘lied to us and lied to the UNHRC that we would be consulted on the Permanent Office on Missing Persons (OMP)’.

At the conclusion of a march in Northeastern Mullaithivu, where tens of thousands were killed during the last stages of Sri Lanka’s bloody war, Tamil war victims handed over a strongly worded petition addressed to the president and the leader of the opposition condemning the setting up the OMP without victim consultation.

UN and several human rights organizations have recorded credible evidence of Sri Lanka security and intelligence unit involvement in the disappearance of tens of thousands during the final stages of the war and its aftermath.

‘War heroes’

The OMP was established by an act of parliament on 11 August with the main opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA) backing the government proposal.

The OMP will not prosecute those responsible for enforced disappearances although Sinhala nationalist forces led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa have accused it as a witch-hunt against ‘war heroes’ of the Sri Lanka military.

“The findings of the OMP shall not give rise to any criminal or civil liability,” says the act.

‘That means, we cannot even use the information to prosecute perpetrators before other judicial bodies. This will only strengthen the military’s impunity,’ complains the petition by victim families.

In an interview to a Sinhala weekly, a close confidante of the prime minister assured Sinhala nationalists that no harm will come to the country’s military.

“The whole aim of this process is to investigate war crimes and prove that those allegations have no foundation at all,” Deputy Minister of Power & Renewable Energy, Ajith P Perera told 'Ravaya.'

"The Office on Missing Persons is not a place that will investigate crimes. It's role will be strictly limited to collecting information on disappeared persons and to provide relief to the affected families," he further said.   


“While we are outraged by the deceit perpetrated against us by the Government to protect its military from being prosecuted for enforced disappearances, we are also deeply dismayed by the role played by the TNA,” family members of the disappeared said in the petition to the President and the leader of the opposition.

The loss of trust displayed by the relatives of the disappeared was reflected in a statement issued by a consultation body appointed by the government.

Lamenting the government’s rejection of recommendations by the affected families on the title, composition and powers of the Office, the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTFRM) has called for the punishment of perpetrators involved in the crime of disappearance.

State complicity

It has also expressed concern over decades of state complicity in the crime of disappearances.

“The lack of information, awareness and attention to incorporating public views, particularly of those families affected by disappearances, reveals a troubling lack of sensitivity to the widespread nature of the crime of disappearances in Sri Lanka, the manner in which it continues to haunt families across the country and the failure on the part of the State to address its horrific complicity in this crime over several decades,” says CTFRM.



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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