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Allow families to mourn those killed in conflict

Graphic: Office of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Colombo

The Commission has wriiten to the President to recommend that all families be able to to mourn those who died in the country's armed conflict.

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has written to the President to recommend that families be able to engage in memorialization activities to mourn those who died in the armed conflict, regardless of their beliefs.

In its letter, the Commission said it is of the view that allowing families to do so would enable them to feel they too have, and are able to exercise their rights as citizens of Sri Lanka, and are part of a common journey towards reconciliation.

"Denial of such an opportunity will only serve to deepen ethnic divisions and hamper reconciliation efforts," the Commission said.

The Commission wrote to the President in response to a complaint received from Rev. Fr. Elil Rajendran of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) Mullaitivu.

Fr. Elil has been summoned numerous times by the police to be interrogated in relation to a memorialization activity he had organized to remember those who lost their lives during the latter stages of the armed conflict.

The memorialization was to be established by carving the names of those who had died on stones to be placed at a permanent memorial in Mullaivaikkal, Mullaitivu.

On several occasions the police had summoned Fr. Elil to appear at different police stations (Mullaitivu and Vavuniya) for questioning about the event. The police had also sought and obtained a judicial injunction to prevent the event from taking place.

Following the court order the police had summoned Fr. Elil and had requested him to submit all names that were to be carved on stones for memorialization to ensure there were no names of LTTE cadres.

Fr. Elil complained to the Commission that repeated questioning by the police, at police stations and at his residence, on this ceremony constituted harassment and placed limits on his freedom of movement, expression and association.

"After a thirty-year armed conflict, Sri Lanka is at present attempting to rebuild ethnic relations and work towards reconciliation. In this process it is important that all communities have the space and ability to mourn the loss of their loved ones and remember them," the Commission said.

"In Sri Lanka we have built many memorials to commemorate the soldiers who have lost their lives during the armed conflict. Likewise, all communities should have the right to construct memorials to remember their family members and loved ones.

"The fact that the person who died was a LTTE cadre should not be used as the reason to deny the family to mourn and remember their loved one. Every family has the right to remember and memorialize their loved ones irrespective of their status or political beliefs."

Date: 9 June 2017

Source: Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka

Image credits

  1. Office of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Colombo - APF