August 30th marks the “International Day of the Missing” to highlight the fate of the countless number of people who have disappeared worldwide as a result of armed and politically motivated violence. On this day the people should be reminded that there are people held in secret detention camps against their will. Their relatives are not informed about the location or state of the disappeared. Although such internment would be a violation of human rights and, in the event of an armed conflict, a violation of international humanitarian law, internment camps for political prisoners are still being established worldwide.
This type of human rights violation is still practiced today in Sri Lanka. During the civil war, Eelam Tamils were repeatedly arrested, tortured, and interrogated in secret internment camps. At the peak of the Civil War in May 2009, several internment camps were built to hold those who were detained as prisoners who were then subjected to brutal torture. Many of the Eelam Tamils were not released from these internment camps.
The United Nations estimated that at the peak of the civil war at least 70,000 Eelam Tamils were killed. However, Reverend Father Rayappu Joseph carried out a count of the missing and found 146,679 Eelam Tamils are, still unaccounted for ten years after the war. Many of them were taken away by the Sri Lankan Army which was under the command of Shavendra Silva. To date, the Sri Lankan government has not investigated the cases of missing persons. There are still other torture camps in which Eelam Tamils are believed to be held, and to this day the relatives do not know where the missing persons are.
The Government of Sri Lanka has so far failed to deliver the promises made to the international community regarding the treatment of the missing persons. On the contrary, Sri Lanka is defiant by appointing a credibly accused war criminal as the Commander of its Army. The relatives of the disappeared in Mullaithivu have been continuing a vigil for over 900 days.
According to the British Freedom from Torture (FFT), documented in February 2019, torture of Tamils in custody is still practiced even during the reign of the current government since 2015. A significant number of people have also reported that they were tortured when they visited Sri Lanka after they have been in the UK.
Previously, the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP), based in Johannesburg, South Africa, published details of 57 cases of abduction, torture and/or sexual violence by Sri Lanka’s security forces, which occurred in 2016/17. “Everyone can say that there is a new government, but there were only a few superficial changes while rape, torture, and abduction are still continuing. Nothing has changed,” a torture victim from Sri Lanka was quoted by FFT.
Today, on the International Day of the Disappeared, we would like to remind you of the 146,679 missing Eelam Tamils and urge the international community to carry out an independent investigation into war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide and alleviate the deep pain and anguish experienced by the kith and kin of the disappeared.
We call on the international community to stop the ongoing genocide and bring those leaders responsible for these crime to justice. We demand justice and freedom for the Eelam Tamil people.