During a UN Security Council Arria-Formula Meeting on the Global Challenge of Accounting for Missing Persons, the Permanent Representative of the US to the UN, Samantha Power spoke about her visit to Sri Lanka and the missing persons issue.
She said that in recent months, she had the opportunity to visit two countries afflicted by huge numbers of missing and disappeared: Sri Lanka and Mexico.
Power said that while the history and the causes of the problem in each context, and any other context, is completely distinct, she was struck on these two visits by how many of the same themes emerged in her meetings with victims’ families as well as those with NGOs and Government officials.
She said that relatives of victims in both Mexico and Sri Lanka spoke of how disappearances upended virtually every aspect of their lives.
“In Jaffna, Sri Lanka, just a couple months ago a mother told me how, in March of 2009 she had seen men in military uniforms abduct her 16-year-old daughter, and had been beaten when she tried to intervene. Yet despite promptly reporting that crime to officials, the mother told me, she had never heard anything back. She has spent nearly every day of the six years since searching for her daughter, whose whereabouts remain unknown,” she said.
“In Sri Lanka, the Sirisena government passed landmark legislation in September 2015 to issue “missing” certificates to the families of victims – a reform aimed at ending the harmful practice of forcing families to sign death certificates for missing persons in order to access basic services,” she added.
She said that such efforts are indispensable in countries like Mexico and Sri Lanka, which lack credible, comprehensive databases, and where building them could help thousands of families obtain answers that they have long yearned for. (Colombo Gazette)