On day of the missing, families in Sri Lanka still seek answers

As the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances is marked today families of 16,000 people missing in Sri Lanka are still seeking answers, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.

“Families whose loved ones go missing in armed conflict live with a kind of grief and pain unlike any other. They face many difficulties in day-to-day life as a result of their loved ones being missing. Women whose husbands are missing are stigmatized by their community. Children whose fathers are missing are ridiculed by their peers in school. Parents grow old, longing for their missing sons and daughters to return home,” the ICRC said.

In 2015 the ICRC started a programme in Sri Lanka to help these families cope emotionally and address the legal, administrative and economic difficulties they face.

Through peer-to-peer support, families of missing persons help each other to overcome their struggles together and find some solace, as they wait for answers.

Meanwhile UN experts expressed their concern at the shrinking of democratic space for relatives and human rights defenders working on enforced disappearances, underlining the obligation of States to ensure that they can conduct their work effectively and without fear.

“We are extremely concerned that we continue to receive reports of acts of intimidation, threats, stigmatization and reprisals against those who work to shed light on cases of enforced disappearances. They should be helped and protected rather than threatened”, stressed Houria Es-Slami.

“We reaffirm our solidarity with and support to the victims of enforced disappearance, their relatives and those helping them in their struggle for truth and justice. The Committee and the Working Group will continue their work with resolve and determination to assist victims in the search for their loved ones”, concluded the experts. (Colombo Gazette)

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