Continuing spectre of "disappearances" in Sri Lanka - Amnesty

Place: Jaffna | Courtesy: Amnesty
| Date: 19971127

"An Amnesty International delegation which visited Sri Lanka recently has concluded that of the 600-odd people who have "disappeared" in the last 18 months after their arrest by the security forces, nearly all have died as a result of torture or been deliberately killed in detention....

According to the organization, the events of 1996 indicate the need for an active approach to tackling the root causes of human rights violations in Sri Lanka -- the lingering sense of impunity among perpetrators and the legislation allowing for people to be detained incommunicado for long periods of time.

"In the past, Sri Lanka became a country notorious for "disappearances" -- a country racked by the terrible anguish suffered by relatives who never knew the fate of their loved ones," Amnesty International said. "The government must seize the initiative now to ensure that nobody has to go through this harrowing ordeal again."

"Disappearances" usually took place in reprisal for attacks on the military by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) armed opposition group -- for example the killing of more than 1,300 soldiers during an attack on Mullaitivu army camp in July -1996...

After the Mullaitivu attack, the army told villagers in the Navatkuli area to gather at a local school, where they were made to file past masked informants. After a night of severe beatings in the main army camp nearby, most of those detained were released, however 39 remain unaccounted for despite numerous requests for information made by their relatives.

According to local people interviewed by Amnesty International, the bodies of some of the "disappeared" are dumped in disused wells and lavatories in or around army camps.

One 21-year-old man told how he was arrested on the way to visit his grandmother in July 1996. He was beaten with a rifle, partially suffocated with a plastic bag, throttled with a cloth and then stabbed with a bayonet in his neck and head. Semi-conscious he felt someone slice two of his fingers off to steal his rings. When he regained consciousness he found he had been dumped in a latrine."
(Amnesty International Press Release 27 November 1997 AI Index ASA 37/27/97 )