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UN rights chief urges Sri Lanka government to locate missing civilians

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein [official profile] on Tuesday urged the Sri Lankan government to investigate and locate thousands of civilians [statement] that went missing during the nation's civil war. Speaking at the end of his mission to Sri Lanka, Zeid asked that the government quickly locate civilians that are missing and identify whether they are alive or dead:

[T]he Prime Minister’s recent statement that nearly all the disappeared persons are dead has created great distress among their families, who until then still had hope. This statement must be followed by rapid action to identify precisely who is still alive and who has died or been killed, properly account for their deaths—including whether or not they were unlawful—identify the location of their remains, and provide redress.
There are an estimated 4,000 people missing, though the government has warned that many might be dead.

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 2014 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. Earlier that year, then-UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on [JURIST report] Sri Lanka to improve its human rights record.

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