Sri Lanka gov't approves certificates of absence for missing

AP News
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Posted: Jun 07, 2016 11:09 AM

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka's government said Tuesday it has approved a process for issuing certificates of absence to the families of tens of thousands of people who have been reported missing, largely during several armed uprisings.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Cabinet approved draft legislation that will be submitted to Parliament for ratification. It said the measure will help families resolve practical issues such as transferring property, applying for compensation, social welfare payments and pensions, and accessing frozen bank accounts.

These have proved difficult because the state doesn't currently recognize the status "missing."

The government says about 65,000 reports have been received of missing persons since 1994. They were largely from a Marxist uprising in 1987-1989 and the last 15 years of a 26-year civil war with ethnic Tamil rebels.

An unknown number of people also went missing during an earlier Marxist uprising in 1971.

The government said certificates of absence have been proven in other countries to be an effective interim measure that "balances the psychological and practical needs of family members and loved ones without dismissing the need for active investigation into cases of missing persons."

The government has promised the U.N. Human Rights Council to investigate tens of thousands of reports of missing persons from the final stage of the civil war, which ended in 2009.

It has already approved an office on missing persons.