|Geneva/Colombo (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) strongly objects to misleading public references to its confidential findings on disappearances that were included in a recent statement by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the statement, issued on 15 March in response to the United States Department of State’s 2007 country report on human rights, the Foreign Ministry said that the ICRC “confirmed a distinct downward trend in disappearances and unexplained killings (…) during the second and third quarters of 2007”.
The Foreign Ministry cited an “improvement on the ground” based notably on ICRC observations.The statement also indicated that the US embassy had access to confidential ICRC reports.
The ICRC deplores the publication and sharing of confidential reports submitted exclusively to the Sri Lankan authorities, and the Foreign Ministry’s misrepresentation of its overall findings and its dialogue with the government.
“Extra-judicial killings and disappearances are part of a terrible pattern of abuse in Sri Lanka, which must be stopped,” said Jacques de Maio, the ICRC’s head of operations for South Asia.
“The ICRC strives to bring this about through its confidential and direct dialogue with the authorities concerned.
For this reason, we prefer not to enter into a public debate on the number of disappearances in Sri Lanka.” The ICRC has an international mandate to protect and assist the victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence around the world and, in its capacity as an exclusively humanitarian organization, it does so in a strictly neutral and impartial manner.
In Sri Lanka, the ICRC maintains an ongoing dialogue with those involved in the conflict, including the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, regarding violations of international humanitarian law, such as enforced disappearances.
It urges them to take all necessary measures to put an end to violations and to prevent their recurrence.
The ICRC remains committed to pursuing its confidential contacts with the government as the most effective means at its disposal to help the victims of violations of international humanitarian law and their families.
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