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UN delegation: Sri Lanka has opportunity to provide rights to disappeared citizens

[JURIST] The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, a delegation of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official websites] announced [press release] Wednesday that Sri Lanka has an opportunity to properly address the rights violations committed against disappeared citizens. The experts noted that Sri Lanka had previously made no effort to determine the whereabouts of the disappeared or search for the truth related to the disappearances, but has since made a commitment to remedy the past wrongs. The report points out the current absence of a comprehensive and effective reparation program and social, psychological and economic support for relatives of the missing. The group encouraged Sri Lankan authorities to take advantage of the "historic moment" to achieve reconciliation through official legal methods. The delegation specifically approved of the recommendation [JURIST report] from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein to integrate international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators into the envisaged judicial mechanism in order to prosecute massive human rights and humanitarian law violations, including enforced disappearances.

The UN released a report in September finding that war crimes may have been committed [JURIST report] during the Sri Lankan civil war. Later that month, the President of Sri Lanka rejected [JURIST report] a UN recommendation for international involvement in its domestic investigation of the war crimes. The UN report came amid mounting pressure on the Sri Lankan government from human rights groups and the international community to investigate and prosecute abuses during the conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [CFR backgrounder]. In October, a Sri Lankan panel presented a report to parliament which concluded [JURIST report] that allegations that Sri Lankan troops committed war crimes are credible. Last year, then-US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Stephen Rapp called on Sri Lanka to investigate rights abuses [JURIST report] by security forces during the civil war. In 2013, UK Prime Minister David Cameron demanded [JURIST report] that the Sri Lankan government conduct its own investigation into war crime allegations.

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