SRI LANKA: 20 forced disappearances reported in December 2005
BBC Sinhala Service revealed today a report by the Human Rights
Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) stating that enquiries are ongoing
regarding 20 complaints of forced disappearances that are alleged to
have taken place during the month of December 2005.
The HRCSL's director of Investigations and Inquiries has been quoted
as saying that "some of these people have been abducted while on
their way to work, while others have been abducted in the night." He
is further quoted as saying that the Commission has not been able to
establish who is responsible for the abductions.
Meanwhile, the defense authorities are quoted as having accepted
that they have not been in compliance with the regulations requiring
them to inform the HRCSL of arrests made under the Emergency
Regulations. The Inspector General of Police has reportedly agreed
to reinforce measures to safeguard the rights of those who are
arrested under the Emergency Regulations.
In recent decades, Sri Lanka has had one of the worst records in the
world concerning forced disappearances. In 1971, around 10,000
persons disappeared in the south of the country. Between 1987 and
1991, over 30,000 disappeared in the south, and since the early
1980s there have been constant disappearances in the north and east
of Sri Lanka. The exact number of such disappearances remains
Past experience dictates that forced disappearance in Sri Lanka
entails the killing of persons following arrest. The arrests are
performed secretly, so as to circumvent legal safeguards and to
prevent any traces of evidence being left concerning the abduction
and any further ill-treatment. As a result, in the cases of about
30,000 disappearances in the south between 1987 and 1991, it has not
been possible to prosecute anyone, as the evidential trail has been
carefully destroyed to ensure that no form of legal accountability
can be enforced. There have also been abductions by non-state
actors, particularly in the north and east of the country. In such
instances, it is even more difficult to trace the disappeared.
Given the current circumstances, it is imperative to establish
safeguards and mechanisms for the immediate receipt of complaints of
forced disappearances and for prompt and impartial inquiries to be
launched. These should include effective legal assistance for the
filing of habeas corpus applications in courts and the quick
adjudication of such applications.
The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka should publish the names of
all persons who are supposed to have been disappeared, to better
inform the country about this matter and to enable all concerned
persons to take appropriate measures to deal with such
disappearances, including interventions with UN bodies that deal
with disappearances and related issues.
We urge the Sri Lankan government to make a policy statement
highlighting the government's commitment to prevent all forced
disappearances, to investigate all cases of disappearances and to
prosecute all perpetrators irrespective of rank, position or
political affiliation. Regardless of the intensification of the
"ethnic conflict" there can be no justification for allowing
disappearances to take place. Unless immediate measures are taken at
this stage, the terrible experiences of the recent past may again
become reality in Sri Lanka.
We also urge all UN agencies and the international community,
notably the European Union, to take serious measures and express
their concern to the Sri Lankan government in order to ensure that
the occurrence of forced disappearances is brought to an end.