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President promises probe into disappearances

President Maithripala Sirisena said on Saturday that he would order a probe into claims being made in the media that some of the schoolchildren who posed for a picture with him in Jaffna in 2015 had gone missing.


The President was addressing a public rally in Sampur.


The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government has come under pressure from the Northern politicians including the Northern Province Chief Minister C. V. Wigeneswaran, civil society organisations and international human rights groups to probe disappearances both under the previous dispensation and after the 2015 change of government. The United Nations Human Rights Commission has also urged the government to conduct investigations into involuntary disappearances.


The PTI quoted the President has having said in Sampur that his government would launch a special investigation into the allegations that people who had disappeared were being held in some secret detention centres. He promised to appoint a high-level committee to get at the truth. The outfit to be appointed would study the recommendations made by the previous committees which probed disappearances previously.


The PTI report said: “Several such probes have taken place appointed by successive governments since the 1980s. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said last year that more than 16,000 people have disappeared since the 80s.


“The most recent government-appointed panel the Paranagama Commission in 2013 said nearly 19,000 people have disappeared among whom are 5000 government troops who had battled the 30 year separatist war.


“Sri Lanka came under increased international focus on disappearances of individuals by the government troops, the Tamil Tiger rebels who ran an armed separatist campaign and paramilitary groups. The UN Human Rights Council resolutions called for probes on disappearances.


The government has set up an office for missing persons (OMP) but awaits further legislation to make it operational. Sirisena said he had instructed the Cabinet to make the necessary laws to make the OMP meaningful.”

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