'Projection as Protest' in front of UN Headquarters in New York on International Day of Disappeared: TGTE
Visuals of hundreds of Disappeared Tamils were screened outside the UN.
Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) organized several protests in different parts of the world to observe the International Day of Disappeared on August 30.
This included a unique ‘Projection as Protest’ event in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York where visuals of hundreds of Tamils who Disappeared were screened. Protests were also held in France, UK, Germany and Australia, while Tamils in Canada embarked on a 424 km ‘Walk for Justice’ to bring to public attention the issue of missing Tamil youth in Sri Lanka.
UN Ranked Sri Lanka as having the second highest number of the Disappeared in the world. According to Amnesty International, Sri Lanka has one of the world’s highest numbers of enforced disappearances, with a backlog of between 60,000 and 100,000 disappearances since the late 1980s.
The Office of Missing Persons (OMP) established in 2016 by the Sri Lankan government, under pressure from members of the United Nations Human Rights Council, had been done without any participation of families of those who had gone missing or of any international experts. After four years of existence, the OMP has not released even a list of combatants taken into custody during the armed conflict who later disappeared. Sri Lanka’s judiciary refuses to enforce an order to produce the list despite a senior military officer admitting to its existence in open court. Though Sri Lanka has also ratified the UN Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, it had blocked the right of victims to be represented independently before the “Committee” established under the Convention by making reservation to article 31 of the Convention.
In January this year, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa admitted that over 20,000 Tamil youth, who had surrendered to the Sri Lankan army at the end of the civil war in 2009, were dead – without explaining how they died or what happened to their remains.
‘The issue of missing Eelam Tamils is an affront to the entire international community and steps are urgently needed to bring those responsible to justice” said Ms Anuradha Mittal, an internationally renowned expert on development and human rights, who also spoke on the occasion. She further commented that the people who committed these crimes are back in power with complete impunity. What message does this send out to the world? If the Island nation with the 2nd largest number of disappearances can get away with complete impunity, it sends a message that any country can do the same. She further said if the government is not going to produce the list of those missing, it is up to us to create a database. When were they taken away? How did they disappear? Where are the ICRC reports? We cannot be silenced because if we are, that will happen again. Collect testimonies; continue to protest; Continue to send letters to the United Nation. She said it was wrong to see the problem as being that of only Eelam Tamils. Instead it should be taken up as a global human rights issue by all. Ms Mittal concluded by saying that it was vital to note that Anuradha, as an Indian, as a American, stood together with those families of the disappeared in Sri Lanka.