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Appeal for UN action on missing persons

Disappearance of prominent journalist prompts protest

Families and activists hand in a petition to the UN Families and activists hand in a petition to the UN
  • ucanews.com reporter, Colombo
  • Sri Lanka
  • October 23, 2012
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Activists and family members of people who have disappeared in Sri Lanka appealed yesterday for the United Nations to intervene.

In a rally outside the UN office in Colombo, protesters held up pictures of their missing relatives to mark 1,000 days since the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda, a journalist and cartoonist critical of the government.

Demonstrators submitted a petition to the UN as well as to President Mahinda Rajpaksa and other prominent politicans.

“We urge the government to facilitate a visit to Sri Lanka by the UN Working Group on Disappearances and to ratify the international Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance,” said Nimalka Fernando, a lawyer and rights activist.

Fernando, one of Sri Lanka's best known human rights advocates, appealed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to intervene and help families find missing relatives.

“Ensure accountability for those subject to enforced disappearances and provide information about all persons held in government detention and rehabilitation centers,” she said, adding that families of the disappeared also desperately needed economic support.

Ekneligoda disappeared two days before the presidential election in 2010 in which incumbent Rajapaksa defeated Sarath Fonseka, the former army chief who was instrumental in defeating the rebel Tamil Tigers.

“I have been on the road for the past 1,000 days with my children looking for my husband,” said Sandya Ekneligoda, wife of the missing journalist.

In March, she participated in a UN session in Geneva which brought international attention to the issue of forced disappearances in Sri Lanka.

“Sri Lankan representatives accused me of betraying the country,” said Ekneligoda.

Her husband’s case has already been raised in UN Human Rights Council sessions.

In June, former attorney-general and current legal adviser to the cabinet, Mohan Peiris, gave contradictory evidence on Ekneligoda in a Colombo court after he had previously said the journalist was living abroad.

The UN Working Group on Disappearances has received information on 12,460 cases of missing people in Sri Lanka. Dozens of journalists have been imprisoned and 12 murdered in the past five years.

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