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11 June 2008

The Government of Sri Lanka needs to stamp out a recent wave of disappearances during which women and humanitarian aid workers have also gone missing, a United Nations expert group said on Wednesday.

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances said it has formally communicated to the authorities its concerns that over the last two months 22 people have disappeared, 18 of them last month.

“In the past two months alone, the Working Group has sent 22 urgent actions to the Government. Out of those cases, 18 disappearances took place in May. The Working Group is also concerned that both women and humanitarian aid workers are being targeted”, the expert group said. That number may be lower than in reality, as the group estimates that many other disappearances may be occurring in Sri Lanka but are not being reported because of fear of reprisals.

Despite the supposed willingness of the Government to address the issue of enforced disappearances, little progress has been made, the Working Group said. “The Working Group calls upon the Sri Lankan authorities to take effective measures to prevent and terminate acts of enforced disappearances, to carry out thorough investigations and to bring the perpetrators to justice”, it added.

The Working Group, whose mandate is to determine the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives, “regrets that it has not been able to visit Sri Lanka, and reiterates its request to the Government to extend an invitation to visit the country without delay”.

The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances was created by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. The Working Group endeavours to establish a channel of communication between the families and the Governments concerned, to ensure that individual cases are investigated, with the objective of clarifying the whereabouts of persons who, having disappeared, are placed outside the protection of the law. In view of the Working Group's humanitarian mandate, clarification occurs when the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person is clearly established. The Working Group continues to address cases of disappearances until they are resolved.


For use of information media; not an official record