Daniel Koburger '16
Thomas Laverty '18

December 12, 2016 - On December 5, 2016, the South Asian Centre for Legal Studies (SACLS) in Sri Lanka published Operationalizing the Office on Missing Persons: Manual of Best Practices, a report on conducting missing persons investigations in post-conflict Sri Lanka. Cardozo Law students Daniel Koburger '16 and Thomas Laverty '18, as part of the Benjamin B. Ferencz Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic, contributed research support to the report, outlining how Sri Lanka’s newly established Office on Missing Persons (OMP) can most effectively locate, identify and return those who disappeared during the nation’s 26-year civil war.

“An estimated 16,000 Sri Lankans remain missing today and their families cannot move on until they know the fate of their loved ones," Laverty said. "The emotional, legal, and financial toll of having a family member disappear is overwhelming.” 

The report surveys a range of tasks the OMP will undertake in the years to come. These include staffing, witness protection, mass grave investigations and family outreach. Operationalizing the Office on Missing Persons takes a holistic look at the office’s mandate. The manual reviews recommendations made by international organizations with expertise in missing persons investigations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP); analyzes tactics that various national authorities have used to confront their own conflict-ridden pasts; and suggests how the OMP might adapt these best practices to the Sri Lankan context.

“We hope that this guidance can help the OMP bring a measure of closure to some of the families, and help Sri Lankan society move forward,” Koburger said.  

The Benjamin B. Ferencz Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic provides students the opportunity to engage in human rights litigation and advocacy toward preventing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, protecting populations and rebuilding societies in the aftermath of atrocity. For more information, please contact Professor Blum at pblum@yu.edu or Professor Getgen Kestenbaum at jocelyn.getgen@yu.edu.