The Association for Relatives of Enforced Disappearances (Northern and Eastern Provinces) has called for the arrest of ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in a letter to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (HCHR) Michelle Bachelet.
“Rajapaksa declared ruthlessly that many of our relatives who had surrendered during the final war of 2009 had died.” “He played a major role in the disappearance of our loved ones as the then-Defence Secretary, and issued orders to carry out a pre-planned genocide,” the letter claimed.
The Association demanded justice for alleged crimes committed by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces led by Rajapaksa, then Defence Secretary, and Mahinda Rajapaksa, then President. The letter included six main demands, including the arrest of Gotabaya Rajapaksa “regardless of which country he is hiding in.”
The Association has also demanded that Mahinda Rajapaksa be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) and that the Armed Forces immediately cease their occupation of land in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
“By occupying our lands and temples, the Sinhala Buddhist government is rapidly implementing “Sinhala Buddhist-ization.” This activity must cease immediately, and the land must be returned to its rightful owners.”
Furthermore, the Association demanded the immediate release of Tamil political prisoners as well as a long-term political solution to aid the Tamil people’s right to self-determination in the North and East.
“The Tamil people have the right to self-determination and should be able to choose their own political fate.” The letter stated that “a permanent political solution must be provided through an internationally monitored referendum among the people and their descendants who lived in the Northern and Eastern Provinces on or before February 4, 1948.”
The families of the disappeared have been engaged in what is regarded as the country’s longest continuous protest, calling for justice for those who were victims of enforced disappearances during the civil war years. On August 12, the struggle reached 2,000 days.
For the past 2,000 days, we, the relatives of the forcibly disappeared in Sri Lanka’s north and east, have been fighting to find our loved ones. They were either handed over or surrendered, but they were later abducted or taken for interrogation and forcibly disappeared. Initially, we met with former President Maithripala Sirisena and demanded justice from the Sri Lankan government. He promised to fulfil his promise if our demands were justified and fair. But he cheated us by not keeping his promise,” the letter charged.
The Association also claimed that the “racist attitude of the Sri Lankan judiciary,” which practises “one law for the Sinhalese and one law for the Tamils,” has led them to believe that the Sri Lankan government will not provide fair justice.
“As a result, we decided to direct our struggle toward the international world in order to seek justice from the international community.” A total of 138 parents who initially joined us in the struggle died without knowing where their loved ones were or finding justice. “However, we will continue to fight with confidence in the international community.”
The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) acknowledged in March 2021 that it is critical to preserve and analyse evidence of human rights violations in Sri Lanka in order to promote accountability. This was accomplished through Resolution 46/1, which received 22 votes in favour and 11 votes against it and was introduced at the UNHRC by the Core Group on Sri Lanka (Canada, Germany, North Macedonia, Malawi, Montenegro, and the UK).
Bachelet called on the UNHRC and its Member States earlier this year in her written update to cooperate with the Office of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in its discharge of accountability-related work under Resolution 46/1 and to provide it with adequate human and financial resources to enable it to effectively deliver the full mandate given under the said Resolution. When the Council meets for its 51st session from September 13th to September of this year, Bachelet is expected to present a comprehensive report with options for increasing accountability.