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Chapter II

 

THE PRESENT WHEREABOUTS OF DISAPPEARED PERSONS

The cases inquired into by this Commission fall into the following categories:

1.  Where the bodies were found and identified - 647 cases.

2. Where credible evidence is available of victims detention or seen in detention prior to 

    disappearance - 303 cases.

3. Where there is evidence of abduction only. This category constitutes the majority of the cases   

    -  4473 cases.

4. Where there is no evidence either to an abduction or detention to ground the complaint of disappearance  

     -  7 cases.                                                                                                                  

5.Those abducted and released - 384 cases.

6. Persons who were alleged to have voluntarily disappeared but subsequently traced  - 3 cases.

The possibility that some of those alleged to have involuntarily disappeared may have left the Island or be living elsewhere in this country cannot be ruled out altogether, although these would be a small number without statistical significance[1].

A few observations regarding the following three categories are pertinent at this point:

(i)         Where bodies were found and identified.

(ii)        Those seen in places of detention prior to disappearance.

(iii)       Returned detainees.

(i)         Where Bodies were Found and Identified

The general pattern in the case of subversive killings was that the bodies of the victims could be found in close vicinity to their home. In most cases, judicial inquests were held and reports of police investigation filed, as required by law.

Where the perpetrators were the agents of the State or paramilitary groups, family members generally had no access to bodies for identification. In a few cases, even where disappearances were at State hands, bodies were publicly exhibited. For instance, a resident of Katupotha was taken into custody by the Police, tied to the rear of a jeep and dragged along the streets of Katupotha town, before being shot dead and strung up on a tree at the market place for public examination. Dead bodies floating in rivers, bodies on roads, and burning bodies on tyres had been a common sight during this period.

(ii)        Those Seen in Detention Prior to Disappearance

Some of the patterns of disappearance could be discerned in this category:

(a)  Corpus seen in State custody but authorities denied detention and offered no explanation.

(b)  Corpus spoken to while in State custody, with food and clothes given to them over a period. The explanation of authorities that detainees were transferred to other places of detention remained unsubstantiated. No records of detention were forthcoming to the Commission from the authorities.

(c)  Cases where returned detainees testified before this Commission to torture and sometimes murder inside the camps or of detainees being taken out but never brought back.

(d)  Cases where the authorities themselves gave the explanation that the detainees were killed while trying to escape or in crossfire during the subversive attack.

(e)  Cases where unknown persons usually coming in unnumbered vehicles abducted the disappeared soon after release from places of detention. There is evidence that such incidents took place with the connivance of State agencies.

(f)  Persons abducted by unknown persons after being discharged by Magistrates, and who have 

      disappeared.

(g)  Some persons who surrendered as a response to and in obedience to requests made by the

      State had also disappeared.

During this period, there was a practice of surrendering persons to the Government Agent of the area who made arrangements to hand them over to rehabilitation camps.

In the 4473 cases inquired into, the bodies of the victims were found only in 647 cases. The others have disappeared without a trace. However, in the given context, the word “disappearance” is only a euphemism for the death caused by extra judicial killings.

(iii)       Returned Detainees

This Commission received 654 complaints by persons who had been involuntarily removed or unlawfully arrested and detained. Most of them complained of assault and torture while under detention. Most of them spoke of the humiliation and the trauma they underwent which resulted in psychological damage.

Several such cases were referred to the Human Rights Commission as these returned detainees have lost their right to petition the Supreme Court in respect of the breach of their fundamental rights to freedom from illegal detention and from torture, by reason of the constraints of the time limit imposed by the relevant provision of the Constitution.

Those who were involuntarily removed and have been released or escaped from custody are living witnesses to acts of torture perpetrated on them and on others who are no longer amongst the living. The evidence of these returned detainees may be the only evidence that could pin down the perpetrators. The case of a returned detainee from Anuradhapura, who was an ardent LSSP supporter, is a case in point. He gave credible detailed evidence to the Commission how he had seen several deaths in custody while he was under detention.

This Commission recommends the further investigation of the complaints of returned detainees be done as a matter of urgency[2]. There is an urgent need to probe further into the complaints of the returned detainee where they have given well-founded evidence of their abductors and the incidents to which they are witnesses. There are 10 such instances inquired into by this Commission. It is further recommended that the evidence of returned detainees on the events they witnessed while in custody

be recorded and the Human Rights Commission be directed to deal with instances of torture of returned detainees inquired into and reported by this Commission[3].


 


[1]               Section 10 of the Registration Deaths (Temporary Provisions) Act No. 58 sets out the procedure to

cancel a Death Certificate in the event of the corpus reappearing.

[2]               In respect of relief to returned detainees, vide separate Chapter IV.

[3]               Vide Annex XVII for the list of such cases.

 

Posted on 2003-06-15



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