by Amnesty International, August 30, 2008
|The cases of Sebastian Goodfellow, Professor Raveendranath, Reverend Brown and many others remain unsolved and must be promptly and impartially investigated.|
In observance of the International Day of the Disappeared (which falls on August 30 each year), Amnesty International issued on Aug. 28 a report entitled: “Asia Pacific: Enforced disappearances in the Asia Pacific region must end”. Below are the Sri Lanka entry and the recommendations from the report. To obtain the entire report as well as other documents published by AI for the International Day of the Disappeared, please visit http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/25-years-remembering-the-disappeared-20080829 .
There is a widespread pattern of enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka with several hundred cases reported in the last 18 months alone. In June 2008 the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) noted that in two months 22 people had disappeared, 18 of them in May. Families complain that fear of reprisals prevents many from reporting cases to the official bodies. By the end of 2007, 5,516 cases of enforced disappearances remained unresolved according to WGEID.
15 May 2008 was the last day anyone saw Sebastian Goodfellow, a driver for the aid agency Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). It is feared he has been abducted, possibly by an armed group operating with the tacit support of the security forces. NRC reported his possible enforced disappearance to the Cinnamon Gardens police station in Colombo. His family reported the same to the police in the eastern city of Batticaloa, where he is normally based. Sebastian’s case is not an isolated one. Professor Sivasubramanium Raveendranath, the Vice Chancellor of the Eastern University, disappeared from a high security zone in Colombo on 15 December 2006. Reverend Fr. Thiruchelvan Nihal Jim Brown disappeared in Allaipiddy parish in Jaffna on 20 August 2006. The cases of Sebastian Goodfellow, Professor Raveendranath, Reverend Brown and many others remain unsolved and must be promptly and impartially investigated.
Perpetrators of enforced disappearances continue to walk free. Three Presidential Commissions of Inquiry into the Involuntary Removals and Disappearances of Persons were established in the 1990s. They received about 30,000 complaints. The proceedings of the Commissions were not made available to the public and the main recommendations, including the repeal of emergency regulations, were ignored. The Commissions submitted lists of suspected perpetrators but this resulted in only a handful of convictions. No independent body has been established to investigate these violations, giving perpetrators the confidence of impunity.
As the cases above demonstrate, enforced disappearance and impunity for such crimes is widespread throughout the Asia Pacific region. In the first instance all governments should officially condemn the use of enforced disappearance and make clear to all members of the police, military and other security forces that the practice will not be tolerated under any circumstances. In addition, Amnesty International calls on governments in the Asia Pacific region to:
- immediately end all enforced disappearances;
- immediately reveal the fate and whereabouts of all persons subjected to enforced disappearance;
- immediately release all surviving persons subjected to deprivation of liberty in violation of international law, unless they are charged with a recognizably criminal offence. Those who are not released must be brought promptly before a regular civilian court, charged with a recognizably criminal offence, and if remanded by the court, held in an official place of detention with access to lawyers, family members and the courts and given a fair trial without imposing the death penalty;
- investigate all cases of enforced disappearance and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice, in fair trials without imposing the death penalty;
- sign, ratify and implement the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and make enforced disappearance a criminal offence under national law. States should also make the declarations set out in articles 31 and 32, recognizing the competence of the UN Committee against Enforced Disappearances;
- Victims of enforced disappearance, which includes the families of disappeared persons, must be assured full reparation for their suffering.