Families of the Disappeared

This Entry has been submitted.

Families of the Disappeared

Sri Lanka
Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

In the late 1980s, as many as 60,000 Sri Lankan citizens "disappeared" in a wave of abductions, torture, and extrajudicial killings by state agents. Though the political climate of the country has since improved, society remains silent about the killings, stifling any chance of justice for the victims and stunting the entire field of human rights. Jayanthi Dandeniya, whose brothers and fiancée were killed in the violence, is now leading a nationwide effort to reestablish discourse on peace, human rights, and the rule of law through mobilizing victims' families in the human rights movement.

About Project

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Jayanthi sees the families of those who disappeared during the "terror" of 1988 to 1992 as an important missing link in Sri Lanka's human rights effort. These are the people with the greatest personal stake in ensuring that the country neither forgets the past nor allows another total collapse of law. Relatives of the disappeared bring an important asset to the human rights movement: a sustained interest in revealing the truth and genuine desire for justice. Jayanthi is seeking out the families, linking them together into a national network, and transforming their grief and hardship from a private burden to a public search for justice and legal reform.This delicate process requires time and patience, as shame, fear, and isolation have kept the families from speaking about their loss. Jayanthi brings families together and helps create a public space where they can remember the dead. Because of her efforts, the first Monument to the Disappeared honoring those who died has been erected at a prominent intersection, compelling new families to come forth and share their experiences. Jayanthi is planning a series of similar monuments throughout the country.Building a community and providing a space for public expression are means to a larger end: strengthening society to resist another episode of violence. Janyanthi is mobilizing families as a much needed citizen base for the human rights movement. In addition to pressuring the government to create a law officially making kidnapping a crime, she is connecting them to campaigns against torture, groups that monitor the effectiveness of the National Human Rights Commission, and organizations that work to improve conditions in the free trade zones where abuse with impunity continues unabated.