COLOMBO: At least twenty nine children disappeared in the custody of Sri Lanka’s military after surrendering with their ethnic rebel parents at the end of the island nation’s civil war, a human rights group said Tuesday.
The South Africa-based International Truth and Justice Project said in a statement that it has 280 names of people who surrendered to the military on or about the final day of the fighting nine years ago.
It said some of the names could be duplicated because of nicknames used by the ethnic Tamil rebels, but many are backed up with photographs.
It listed the names of 29 children, many of them under age 5.
“Sri Lankan civil society needs with one voice to demand to know the plight of these children,” said Yasmin Sooka, executive director of the truth and justice project. “Their grandmothers and mothers should not be left alone to stand on the roadside demanding the truth while exposed to intimidation and threats from the security forces.”
Family members of disappeared people have protested for more than a year by sitting by roadsides demanding to know what happened to their relatives.
Sri Lanka’s military defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009, ending a 26-year civil war. Both sides have been accused of abuses and alleged war crimes but no credible investigation has been carried out, despite international demands.
The military made announcements calling on Tamils with even a remote connection to the rebels to surrender, promising them amnesty. Some say they personally handed over their family members to the military.
Sri Lanka’s government has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing during the war but also has not explained what happened to the people who surrendered to its military.
The government recently set up an office on missing persons on an undertaking given to the U.N to investigate thousands of cases of disappearances during the long civil war.—AP