PRESENT WHEREABOUTS OF DISAPPEARED PERSONS
inquired into by this Commission fall into the following categories:
1. Where the bodies
were found and identified - 647 cases.
credible evidence is available of victims detention or seen in detention prior
disappearance - 303 cases.
there is evidence of abduction only. This category constitutes the majority of
4. Where there is no
evidence either to an abduction or detention to ground the complaint of
- 7 cases.
abducted and released - 384 cases.
6. Persons who were
alleged to have voluntarily disappeared but subsequently traced - 3 cases.
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
observations regarding the following three categories are pertinent at this
Where bodies were found and identified.
(ii) Those seen in places of detention prior to disappearance.
(iii) Returned detainees.
Where Bodies were Found and Identified
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
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
the patterns of disappearance could be discerned in this category:
Corpus seen in State custody but authorities denied detention and offered no
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.
Cases where returned detainees testified before this Commission to torture and
sometimes murder inside the camps or of detainees being taken out but never
Cases where the authorities themselves gave the explanation that the detainees
were killed while trying to escape or in crossfire during the subversive attack.
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.
Persons abducted by unknown persons after being discharged by Magistrates, and
persons who surrendered as a response to and in obedience to requests made by
State had also disappeared.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Commission recommends the further investigation of the complaints of returned
detainees be done as a matter of urgency.
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.
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.
In respect of relief to returned detainees, vide separate Chapter IV.
Vide Annex XVII for the list of such cases.
Posted on 2003-06-15