Centre for Policy Alternatives on 11 September, 2015

Certificates of Absence: A Practical Step to Address Challenges Faced by the Families of the Disappeared in Sri Lanka

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Thousands of people went missing during the near three decade long war in Sri Lanka but due to the lack of a comprehensive and independent investigation, the exact number is unknown. State and non state initiatives have noted various steps required regarding this specific issue including the tracing of missing persons, legal support, mental health care and compensation as well as the provision of Death Certificates for families. However, the measures taken thus far, in addition to normal administrative procedures, have proven inadequate in that they address overly specific needs of families and fail to comprehensively address their access to truth and justice.

In light of the failures and rigidity of the present framework and within the context of truth and justice, there must be greater attention on how best to address the needs of the victims and families of the missing. In this regard, it is critical to revisit the existing legal and policy framework and explore options for reform. The present discussion paper is one in a series of policy documents that CPA hopes will facilitate a wider dialogue on the incorporation of basic international standards pertaining to transitional justice, particularly as they relate to processes and mechanisms in a post-war context of reform. This paper focuses on the concept of developing a ‘Certificate of Absence’ as a more victim-centered alternative to the current process that requires that families obtain a Certificate of Death.

Download the full report here.