ICRC helps Lanka probe missing

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has reiterated its commitment to the Sri Lanka government’s efforts to clarify the fate of persons who went missing during the past conflict and offered concrete proposals to establish an independent domestic mechanism for it.

An ICRC statement issued today said that during his five day visit to Sri Lanka which ended last Friday, ICRC director of operations Dominik Stillhart met with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and senior officials.

10_12_2011_Jaffna_01_96278_445“The ICRC’s experience from its work with families of missing persons in other countries is that their needs are multifaceted”, said Stillhart. “Their priority is the need to know the fate and whereabouts of a missing relative, without which they have no closure and a mechanism which is distinct from an accountability process is required to address this need. But they also have other needs such as psychosocial and economic support and administrative or legal concerns arising from having to resolve pension or property rights”, he added.

Last October, the ICRC launched an islandwide assessment using a representative sample from its own caseload, to find out what the needs of these families are. From 1990, the ICRC has received more than 16, 100 tracing requests from families, including approximately 5200 from families of missing soldiers and policemen. At the end of the assessment, a report with its findings will be prepared and shared confidentially with the government to help it to draw up a response to what these families need. The ICRC will support the government in these endeavours.

The ICRC has been present in Sri Lanka since 1989, responding initially to the humanitarian needs of persons affected by the uprising of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in the South and thereafter by the conflict between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the North and in the East.

At present, it is responding to the remaining humanitarian needs of vulnerable persons in the North by providing them with livelihood support and better access to water and sanitation. It ensures the welfare of detainees through its visits to places of detention throughout the country, and will provide technical and administrative support to the government to address overcrowding in prisons. (Colombo Gazette)