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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The Families Of Missing Persons in Sri Lanka: ICRC Recommendations

(ICRC photo)

6. Recommendations.
Based on the findings described in this report, a set of recommendations has been developed to assist governmental and non-governmental,national and international stakeholders to address the issue of missing persons and their families in Sri Lanka, and place additional efforts to clarify the fate and whereabouts of the unaccounted for and to support their families during the process.

6.1. Main recommendations addressed to Sri Lankan Authorities
International humanitarian law casts an obligation on each party to the conflict to take all feasible measures to account for persons reported missing as a result of armed conflict and to provide their family members with any information it has on their fate.70 Based on the findings of this Assessment, the ICRC has shared its detailed recommendations confidentially with the Government of Sri Lanka to assist national authorities to address the issue of missing persons and their families in Sri Lanka in a comprehensive manner. The ICRC’s recommendations to the Sri Lankan authorities are centred on the following key issues:

Address the Need to Know the Fate and Whereabouts
1.1. T ake all possible measures to relieve the families of their uncertainty and fulfil their need to know and establish an independent mechanism71 by an Act of Parliament, with the main objectives of:
1.1.1. Clarifying the fate and whereabouts of missing persons through individual case resolution and informing their families thereof.
1.1.2. Consolidating a national list of missing persons.
1.1.3. Coordinating and streamlining the activities of all government institutions and other organisations involved in the process of clarification of the fate and whereabouts of missing persons, prevention of disappearances and addressing the multiple needs of
the families of the Missing (economic, legal, administrative, psychosocial, etc.).
1.2. Ensure that:

a) appropriate technical forensic capacities are developed and available in the search for, recovery and identification of the remains of the missing persons;

b) an adequate legal framework is adopted that mandates the full investigation of the deaths of missing persons, including the recovery, identification and return of their remains whenever possible; and

c) this legal framework promotes communication, cooperation and coordination amongst all concerned stakeholders to promote efficient and effective delivery of information on the fate and whereabouts of missing persons to their families.

Address Psychosocial Needs
1.3. Address the psycho-social needs of the families of the Missing by:

1.3.1. Filling the pending counsellor positions with individuals who have a degree in counselling psychology; increasing training opportunities for the counsellors and establishing a dedicated coordinating body which oversees all counselling activities across different line ministries.

1.3.2. Providing greater access to NGOs and CBOs who work in different fields of psychosocial support, as organised and coordinated support to families’ needs has to take place in forms of district-based support, where local resources and peers will assist the improvement of the families’ well-being.

1.4. Integrate the theory of ambiguous loss and related intervention guidelines72 in counselling and clinical psychology curriculums, as wellas social work curriculums at the level of tertiary education.

1.5. Develop an environment where a sense of safety is felt by all, affording families the freedom to gather peacefully in groups and organise commemoration73 services in remembrance of their missing relatives.

Address Economic Needs
1.6. Recognise all families of missing persons as victims of the conflict and ensure consistency and non-discrimination in the services and benefits available to them.

1.7. Design specific social benefit packages to address the difficulties faced by families of the Missing in today’s context. In doing so, it is important that particular attention is paid to labelling these packages (i.e. not using the word “compensation” and not providing social assistance as a form of a reparation package).

1.8. Provide information summarising and describing social assistance schemes available to the families of missing persons and the procedures to access them.

Address Legal and Administrative Needs

1.9. Recognise a legal status for the ‘Missing’ and provide for its effects under Sri Lankan law, while establishing the administrative framework necessary for its implementation. The introduction of certificates of absence to families who so require, would allow them to address legal and administrative issues arising from the absence of their loved one, without having to declare the missing person dead.

1.10. Consider revision of the existing administrative rules and procedures to facilitate access for the families of missing persons to services and benefits, including access to relevant documentation (birth certificates, marriage certificates, identity cards, electoral registration

1.11. Provide information to the public on different legal and administrative processes and their requirements, in all three languages.

Address Acknowledgement and Justice Needs
1.12. Consider avenues to acknowledge the families’ need to preserve the memory of their missing relatives, such as by dedicating a day of remembrance in close cooperation with all families of missing persons.

1.13. Include families of missing persons in consultations to determine which transitional justice mechanisms to establish, to adequately address their need for accountability and justice.

6.2. Recommendations to other stakeholders

The ICRC calls upon other stakeholders – whether at national or international level – to support the State authorities to fulfil their primary responsibility to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons and address the needs of their families, by:

1.1. Promoting the clarification of missing persons’ fate and whereabouts and making funds available for it;

1.2. Considering the inclusion of families of all persons missing in relation to the armed conflict as a priority concern, developing programmes in their favour taking into account their identified multifaceted needs, and allocating sufficient funds to cover these needs adequately and holistically;

1.3. Pursuing the dialogue on including the issue of missing persons and their families in the transitional justice discourse and encouraging the inclusion of missing persons’ families in the process; and

1.4. Coordinating efforts to ensure a synchronised response to the multifaceted needs of the families along with the authorities, to make certain that all categories of victims of the conflict are adequately supported, while the efforts are not duplicated and all potential gaps are covered.



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