Statement by the UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka on the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances 2023
30 August 2023
As the world marks the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, our thoughts turn to the victims of this heinous crime and those who have suffered the anguish of not knowing the fate of their loved ones. This day resonates deeply in Sri Lanka, where many families and communities across the country have endured years of uncertainty and suffering, forced to live in the shadows of unanswered questions.
Enforced disappearances have left a painful scar on the nation's history and continue to shape the lives of thousands of Sri Lankans who exist in a state of ambiguity, where their loved ones are neither present nor definitively absent. With little progress in the last decades, families in Sri Lanka are struggling more than ever to learn the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones. Their relentless pursuit for answers has often exposed them to further victimization – intimidation, stigma, and marginalization.
In recent years, Sri Lanka took some important steps towards addressing the legacy of enforced disappearances. The signing of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED) in 2015 and the establishment of the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) were important milestones. The “List of Complaints and Information Regarding Missing and Disappeared Persons,” received and published by the OMP, has served as a foundation upon which we measure progress in delivering justice.
Yet, much remains to be done to ensure victim’s rights to the truth, to justice, and to reparations. We call on the authorities to accelerate efforts to ascertain the fate or whereabouts of victims, to provide reparations to those who have suffered, and to hold perpetrators accountable. Establishing the truth is essential for victims, survivors, and families as well as for the society at large, for it is through truth that healing can begin and the process of reconciliation can start
The United Nations stands in solidarity with the victims and families of enforced disappearances and reiterates its support to the relatives of the forcibly disappeared in their struggle for truth, justice, and reparation.
As we mark this day, let us renew our dedication to ensuring that enforced disappearances become relics of the past. Let us stand up for the rights of victims, uphold the principles of justice, and forge a future where no family is left in the grip of uncertainty. Addressing this legacy is not only a matter of justice but an essential foundation for Sri Lanka to chart a path of progress and sustainable development.
Between 2016 and 2021, he led the Secretary General’s Peacebuilding Fund in the Peacebuilding Support Office in the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, investing in over 50 countries worldwide to sustain peace. Prior to this assignment he was Country Director for UNDP in Pakistan from 2013 to 2016, where he led a team working on governance, climate change adaptation and crisis prevention and recovery. He was Deputy Director of UNDP in Haiti from 2008 to 2012 where he oversaw the implementation of programs addressing governance, rule of law reform, improvement of livelihoods and environmental protection notably in the context of the post-earthquake recovery and reconstruction. Between 2004 and 2008, he worked for UNDP in New York as Program Adviser for Conflict Prevention in Latin America and the Caribbean. Before that he worked on applied research and policy dialogue for UNDP in Colombia from 2001 to 2004, and poverty reduction and local governance for UNDP in Bolivia from 1998 to 2001.