Asian Human Rights Commission reports on protests against disappearances...

Place: Colombo | Courtesy: Human Rights Solidarity
| Date: 19971210

"A protest rally and picketing was held in front of the main railway station in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, on International Human Rights Day, 10 December 1997, to bring to the attention of the public and the government the disappearances issue. The fate of about 600 people who disappeared from Jaffna Peninsula in recent times is unknown. The general suspicion is that they were killed after their arrests. The protest was supported by the Nava Lanka Samasamja Party and a government Member of Parliament, Vasudeva Nanayakkara.

Meanwhile, a request to conduct a procession to draw attention to the disappearance issue was rejected by the military commander of the city of Jaffna. The request was made by the Mothers Front and the Association for the Protection of the Disappeared Persons. Since the request was denied, a fast was held across from the Nallur Temple.

The editorials of Sri Lankan newspapers on International Human Rights Day also reflected the disappointment about the country's poor human rights record. Thinnakkural, a Tamil paper, made this comment:

    "Though many human rights organisations, committees and subcommittees have been appointed, it is obvious that none of them are doing any active work. Today under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, thousands of youth are arrested and detained arbitrarily for long periods while thousands more are also apprehended nowadays in the name of security and are interrogated ruthlessly. The PA [People's Alliance] government has also not been able to explain the disappearances of 600 people in the northern peninsula so far, which has made us sick of talking about human rights.

    "In 50 years of independence in this country, human rights violations have reached their zenith. Now the northern peninsula is in army control; and in the above scenario, the press is unable to report incidents taking place there accurately. Today is International Human Rights Day, and it must be seriously considered that nothing can be achieved with mere words. There is some hope in this darkness since A. T. Ariyaratne of the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Sarvodaya and a member of the National Human Rights Commission has made assurances that a human rights office will be opened in the northern region soon." "

- (Human Rights Solidarity - The Newsletter of the Asian Human Rights Commission - December 1997 Volume 7, Number 7)