News By/Courtesy: Sonika Sekhar | 27 Jan 2020 2:30am IST



Sri Lanka is an island country that is located on the Indian Ocean, lying close to the Indian subcontinent. The country is officially known as the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The country is known to house diverse groups of people, with the Sinhalese in majority but also having a large number of Tamil population that has had a significant impact on the country.

Sri Lanka is a country that has, over the years, faced various problems related to human rights which is a major concern for the safety and security of the people residing in the country. The best known situation of Sri Lanka is the twenty six year long civil war that took place between the Sri Lanka Armed Forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). This conflict lasted till recently, with the Sri Lanka Armed Forces emerging victorious in 2009. In the recent context, a major problem that Sri Lanka faces is the issue of enforced disappearances. This has been a big concern across all the human rights organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Commission and so on.

Since the 1980s, Sri Lanka has been a victim to large numbers of people disappearing. The country is observed to have one of the largest numbers of enforced disappearances, having been reported at second highest by the United Nations in 1999. Around sixty thousand to one lakh people have disappeared in the past few decades.

During the time of the Civil War, the Marxist uprisings and the JVP insurrection which was an armed attack by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna to overthrow the government of Sri Lanka, thousands of people were silently kidnapped by armed abductors who left no trace. Both the Tamil and the Sinhalese population have been largely affected by these targeted kidnappings, with the abduction not having stopped even after decades since the aforesaid two events.

As of today, Sri Lanka is still one among the countries with the highest number of enforced disappearances. There has been a conjecture that the State has a hand behind a number of these enforced disappearances and is concealing information of their whereabouts as most of these people who have vanished are those who had surrendered after the armed conflicts against the government of Sri Lanka.

This issue of great concerned was first addressed in 2016, where certificates of absence were issued to the relatives of those who were victims of enforced disappearances. More than sixty five thousand such certificates were issued by the government. The property and other assets of the missing people were sought to be handled by passing them on to their children and so on.

Further, in 2018, the parliament of Sri Lanka passed a bill to ban enforced disappearances and criminalise it, hence punishing those who are guilty of the offense. However, a major flaw in this Bill is that it does not have a retrospective effect, hence not providing justice for all the disappearances in the past decade.

However, these steps taken by the government of Sri Lanka still gives hope that enforced disappearances are eliminated altogether from Sri Lanka.

Section Editor: Prithvijit Mukherjee | 28 Jan 2020 12:51pm IST


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