The release of the list of all those who surrendered or were detained during and after the war is but one step in broader plan of action that must be implemented by the government of Sri Lanka in order to address the needs of relatives of the disappeared.
In their June memo to President Sirisena, relatives of the disappeared also made the following demands:
- Release a list of all secret detention centres run by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces/Police throughout the war the war and after the war; their current status and an annual list of detainees held in such detention centres throughout the war and after the end of the war.
- Release a list of all detainees being held under the PTA/Emergency Regulation or unlawfully in any legal detention centre in Sri Lanka. Release a list of detainees held in these legal detention centres/remand prsions/prisons annually from 1983 onwards
- Release in the public domain all reports of committees/commissions on the subject of disappearances appointed by various Governments over the past 30 years, and this Government’s to those reports.
A key step for the government will also be the establishment of a credible and independent Office of Missing Persons (OMP) with the capacity to effectively investigate cases and deliver justice to families. This demand was conveyed in both the interim and final reports of the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation mechanisms, which made recommendations to the government based on an island-wide survey of war-affected individuals. Legislation to establish the OMP was passed in August 2016, but it is yet to be operationalised. The signing of a gazette by the President in July 2017 raised hopes among families that this would happen imminently, but this move appears to have been bungled, leaving the status of the Office in limbo.
While, for many, the OMP continues to represent the best chance of attaining truth and justice, government delays and ongoing question marks over the design of the Office have contributed to the erosion of trust in it – and the further demoralization of those looking for answers about the fate of their loved ones.
Additionally, groups of relatives of the disappeared have stressed the importance of criminalizing enforced disappearances in Sri Lankan law. A bill to this effect was tabled for debate in the Sri Lankan parliament in July 2017, but it was postponed following objections by prominent Buddhist monks.