By: Sarwar Alam
Sri Lanka will pay small sums to the families of people who were killed or went missing in the carnage of the island nation’s decade-long civil war, authorities announced Tuesday.
Successive Sri Lankan governments have faced international censure over the conflict, which ended in 2009 after the collapse of the minority Tamil separatist movement’s armed wing.
The island’s military was accused of extrajudicial killings and the war’s last days were marked by serious abuses, with rights groups alleging the deaths of at least 40,000 civilians during an assault on the final stronghold of the Tamil Tigers.
Sri Lanka’s cabinet approved reparations payments of just under $400 to the next of kin of each person missing, abducted or killed during the conflict, according to a government statement that gave no estimates of the number entitled to the compensation.
“A one-time payment of 100,000 rupees will be paid to next of kin,” the statement said.
The government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who helmed the defence ministry during the war’s final stages, has routinely denied claims of atrocities by the Sri Lankan military and rebuffed calls for international investigations.
Official figures released by the government two years ago showed that over 23,500 missing persons complaints had been received for cases dating to the conflict.
Among those were some 5,000 members of the security forces whose whereabouts are unknown and who are presumed dead.
Sri Lanka was criticised at the UN Human Rights Council earlier this month for failing to ensure accountability for war-time atrocities committed by both sides during the conflict.
The council last year set up a mechanism to collect and preserve evidence relating to war crimes in the South Asian nation in a bid to allow future prosecutions.
Sri Lanka is currently in the grips of its worst financial crisis since independence from Britain in 1948 and the local currency’s value fell by more than a quarter against the US dollar last week.