Sri Lanka to issue certificates of absence for missing persons

Jun 08, 2016 (LBO) – The Cabinet of Ministers approved draft legislation enabling the issuance of Certificates of Absence enabling family of missing to address practical issues relating to their disappearance.

The draft legislation which involves an amendment to the Registration of Deaths (Temporary Provisions) Act, No. 19 of 2010 will now be gazetted and the process of presentation to Parliament will commence, the government said in a statement.

“This measure will help tens-of-thousands of Sri Lankans whose family-members and loved ones are missing and who are unable to address practical issues relating to their disappearance.”

“Sri Lanka has one of the largest case-loads of missing persons in the world and since 1994 alone, the Government Commissions have received over 65,000 complaints of missing persons.”

The suffering and distress of the families of those missing is exacerbated as, at this point in time, the government does not recognize the status of missing persons, the statement said.

“This means that the families of missing persons face a range of practical issues including inability or difficulty in facilitation of property transfer and ownership, applying for compensation, qualifying for social welfare payments and pensions and accessing frozen assets.”

Although a number of ad hoc measures have been attempted in the recent past, they have failed to successfully address issues faced by the families of the missing.

Certificates of Absence have been used in a number of countries with high incidence of missing persons and has been considered as 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.