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Roundtables on addressing future process on the issue of disappearance

A two day roundtable meeting was organized in Colombo by the Centre for Human Rights and Development, titled the future process of addressing the issue of missing and disappeared persons in Sri Lanka, from 17-18 March 2016. The roundtable brought together victims associations, legal professionals, forensic experts and representatives of civil society organizations. It advanced an understanding of the general legal framework of constitutional, administrative and procedural arrangements in regard to accounting for missing persons, and to discuss the outcome of the roundtable held in Trincomalee with victims and victims associations, where the needs of affected families and priorities regarding the issue were discussed. The discussion also aims to define priority areas for action and further discussion with policy makers.

Ambika Sathkunanathan Commissioner, Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission made the keynote presentation, while Fr. Elil Rajan of the Tamil Civil Society Forum presented the outcomes of the Trincomalee session with families of the disappeared and grassroots’ activists.

Panel presentations on experience of other countries especially Latin America and Europe was carried out by Andreas Kleiser, Director of Policy and Cooperation ICMP; Fredy Peccerelli, Executive Director FAFG and Almudena Bernnabeu, Transitional Justice Program Director CJA

Interventions were carried out by Nehama Jayawardena, Human Rights Officer, UNHCR; Jelena Milosevic Lepotic, Protection Delegate, ICRC; Bhavani Fonseka, Senior Researcher, CPA, and K.S. Ratnavale, Director, CHRD.

On day two, outcomes of the first day was presented by Mangala Shanker, CEO, CHRD. Thereafter, panel presentations on local experiences were presented by Ruki Fernando, Activist; Dr. Ganesan Mahesan, CHRD, Chairman; Deanne Fernando, Attorney at law and representatives of families of victims.

Finally, proposals and discussion on way forward was elaborated.

The two sessions were organized by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG), and the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC) with local partners CHRD and Centre for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (CPPHR).

International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (Fundación de Antropología Forense de Guatemala: FAFG) held a roundtable in Trincomalee, on 14-16 March 2016 to analyze requirements for a systematic and effective process to account for those who are missing as a result of more than 25 years of conflict. Trincomalee event will be followed by a roundtable in Colombo on 17-18, March 2016. This is part of an initiative organized by a consortium of agencies operating as part of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC). The Roundtables are co-hosted by the Centre for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (CPPHR) in Trincomalee and the Centre for Human Rights Development (CHRD) in Colombo. In November, ICMP and FAFG conducted a series of consultations in Sri Lanka with families of victims, victims’ and survivors’ associations, religious leaders, civil society organizations, government representatives, human rights advocates, lawyers, and forensic experts. The roundtables held are designed to prioritize and explore in more detail issues that were raised in November. These include an examination of: The overall objectives of the missing persons process in Sri Lanka, including the need to establish a clear and accurate estimate of the total number of missing; The obligations and responsibilities of the state, reflected in the proposal for an Office on Missing Persons; The role of other State agencies, including the judiciary; Policy and legal requirements in respect of victims’ and survivors’ ability to access their rights, including access to financial support, participation in missing persons processes and protections that are available, including privacy and data protection; Technical capacity requirements, including access to official and other records, and data processing requirements, as well as processes for the location and identification of remains; and Capacity building for civil society, including effective advocacy and monitoring capacities, as well as inter-communal confidence building and mutual support, such as steps to prevent intimidation of victims, or address perceptions of intimidation.

ICMP is an international organization whose mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating and identifying missing persons from conflict, migration, human rights abuses, disasters, crime and other causes. ICMP is participating in a consortium of organizations called the Global Initiative for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation (GITJR) led by the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC) and supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy Human Right and Labor (DRL). The consortium aims to address new challenges in countries in conflict or transition struggling with legacies of or ongoing gross human rights abuses. In Sri Lanka, consortium members ICSC, ICMP and FAFG are working together to address reconciliation and accountability needs, especially related to missing persons, through local and high-level consultations, participatory needs assessments and a technical fund to provide targeted transitional justice technical assistance to the government of Sri Lanka.

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