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3. Efforts to Check Disappearances.

Under pressure from the international human rights community for the scale of gross violations committed in the country, the Government began to respond in the early 1990s with the establishment of new human rights mechanisms. First, in late 1989 when the height of the JVP insurgency was over, it granted access to Sri Lanka to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which started to visit detainees held in police and military custody; it then invited the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the UN Special Rapporteur on Summary or Arbitrary Executions to visit the country.[1] Then, in 1991 it began to establish new institutions for human rights protection. Some of the steps it took are briefly analysed below.

 It should be said at the outset, however, that none of the steps taken have been adequate to end the practice of disappearance in Sri Lanka. Certainly the rate at which disappearances are committed has reduced, but they still continue. For example, at least 20 instances of disappearances in 2000 were reported to Amnesty International.[2] 

 The US State Department Report for 2000 states as follows regarding Sri Lanka:

Disappearances at the hands of the security forces continued in the North and the East. During the year, there were no reports of disappearances in Colombo, or Jaffna. The army, navy, police and paramilitary groups caused as many as 11 disappearances in Vavuniya and Trincomalee through September 29. In January, bodies of three Tamils allegedly taken by the Home Guards near Trincomalee, were found; two of them had been decapitated. In December, eight Tamil civilians were reported missing in Mirusuvil after being arrested and tortured by the SLA. Two SLA soldiers were identified as perpetrators and admitted to murdering seven of the civilians. The bodies were exhumed. One SLA commissioned officer and and six additional SLA soldiers were arrested later. At the year’s end the army commander had ordered an inquiry into the incident. Human Rights nongovernmental organisations (NGO), including Amnesty International (AI), reported an increase in disappearances in Vavuniya during the second half of the year. As with extra judicial killings, the exact number of disappearances was impossible to ascertain due to censorship of news about security force operations and infrequent access to the North and the East. However, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances lists Sri Lanka as a country with an extremely large number of nonclarified disappearances. Those who disappeared during the year and in previous years are presumed dead.

 The World Report for 2001 of the Human Rights Watch speaks of the inability of the Human Rights Commission to trace seventeen people detained by the security forces in Vavuniya during the year 2000, confirming the rush of disappearances in August at Vavuniya, referred to in the Report of Amnesty International.[3]    


[1] Op. Cit. p. 33

[2] Amnesty International – Report for 2001

[3] vide  Human Rights Watch  - 2001, pg 219.

Posted on 2003-06-15


Cyberspace Graveyard for Disappeared Persons
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