RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE DISAPPEARANCES
Commission is required to report on: “Whether there is any credible material
indicative of the person or persons responsible for the alleged removals or
The Material Available
be considered under:
material available with regard to individual perpetrators.
material available with regard to the category of perpetrators.
material indicative of the existence of a political dimension.
Material Available with Regard to Individual Perpetrators
to the available evidence, the cases inquired into could be placed in three
Where there is credible material indicative of the person or persons responsible
further investigations for the
purposes of legal proceedings.
Where the material available is insufficient to warrant further investigation
Where there is no material whatsoever to identify those individual perpetrators.
Accordingly, we are submitting to Your Excellency under separate cover lists of
names of individuals in respect of whom THERE IS CREDIBLE MATERIAL indicative of
their responsibility for disappearances of certain persons. Since we have not
recorded the evidence of the persons against whom there are allegations, the
lists are not part of this Report.
Until further investigations by the Investigative Authorities are held,
CONFIDENTIALITY must prevail, both in respect of the nature of the material
available and in respect of the identity of the persons implicated by such
submitted to Your Excellency is sub-divided into four parts:
Names of persons who are credibly implicated in three or more incidents
inquired into by this Commission - 37 persons
The names of persons thus credibly implicated in respect of two
incidents inquired into by this Commission - 37 persons
The names of persons who are credibly implicated in respect of one
incident inquired into by this Commission - 207 persons
Name of persons credibly implicated on the findings of more than one
- 22 persons
of the serious nature of the acts revealed by the evidence available to date,
your Commissioners recommend that:
the investigations by the IGP
should be under the supervision of the Attorney-General, and
the determination of the
appropriate legal proceedings should be by the Attorney-General.
Material Available with Regard to the Category of Perpetrators
4,473 cases where disappearance has been proved, the identification by the
petitioners of the category of perpetrators responsible was as follows:
Agents of the State/paramilitary
groups in collaborations with them;
Some of the main
factors on which petitioners based their identification of the category of those
Factors Specific to the
anti-Government political affiliation was the main operative factor,
irrespective of whether the party concerned was lawful or unlawful. At least 680
cases of abductions or disappearances could be conclusively attributed to the
participation of such persons in legitimate political activities.
evasion of earlier searches for him either by the agents of the State or by the
subversives, his refusal to identify himself with the political structure at
village level whether pro-Government or subversive, that he held public office
or was a Government employee or a family member of a member of the security
forces or had asserted his right to vote or contest at elections, were among the
Factors Specific to the
Perpetrator such as a Personal Animosity towards
the Disappeared Person
K. S. W. related to this Commission how a Police informant had made use of the
Kundasale Police to destroy her husband and three sons due to a previous enmity
with them. A party in police uniform including the OIC and the informant Mr K
had abducted her husband and three sons on 11 September, 1989. Thereafter the
OIC Kundasale and Police party returned to the village with two of her sons and
two others, set fire to their house and took away her sons. That was the last
time she saw her sons alive. She says that the corpse of one was found at
Pinthaliya Junction and the other at Wedige junction. There was no information
about her husband.
another case the petitioner stated as follows:
“My son was a University student and was
staying at the University hostel. He used to visit us every week. After his
visit in early May, 1989, he did not come home
as usual. On inquiry at the University Hostel the Warden
informed me that my son was missing and that his name is among the seven missing
from that Hostel.”
were many such cases.
instances, the petitioners were clearly aware that what had happened went far
beyond what could be attributed to a breakdown of relations between the
particular perpetrator and the victim. While seeking to identify the person who
had been the immediate link in bringing the “system” into operation against
them, they described the prevalent situation graphically and in concrete terms.
Factors Specific to the Times
corpus was taken at a combing–out operation by the security forces, or modern
weapons and vehicles were used in the incidents of abduction, or he was killed
for defying an “unofficial curfew” declared by the subversives.
In the period under review, the
modus operandi was a general indictor of the agency involved.
subversive act was destruction, usually a killing, of a person in as public a
manner as possible. The corpse would be left identifiable bearing several
ante–mortem injuries of a brutal nature and a placard displayed bearing a
message such as “Death to Informers”. There would usually be instructions that
the body be buried without ceremony and the acts of respect to the dead usual in
technique of abduction and disappearance adopted by the forces was of a
different nature. While the abduction would be done very publicly, the
re-emergence of the body, if at all, would be in a mutilated state that made its
When these bodies were left in public places they were not accompanied by a
claim as to who the perpetrators were. Ironically, the very absence of a claim
and the very attempt to prevent identification of the body came to be an easily
identifiable “trademark” of the perpetrator.
South, there were only a few abductions at the hands of subversives, and in most
instances they were involved in killing, whereas the Government agencies were
mostly involved in abductions. However, in the North and East, both subversives,
including the LTTE, and the State agencies, were involved in abductions and
disappearances. Public killings and the display of bodies with placards stating
the so-called reason for the killings continued to be a practice of subversives
in the North, too.
special feature in the identification of the perpetrator involved in respect of
the incidents in the North during the period from 1987 to 1995 was the absence
of a police and military presence there. The Naval presence was confined to the
sea and the Air Force was confined to Palaly. There were no foreign NGOs
operating in the North during this period other than the UICRC.
The evidence placed before this Commission is that the “streets were littered
with bodies” even as late as the first months of 1995.
complainant described the situation as follows:
“There was no Army or Police at that time [in Jaffna]. There
were many bodies on the road those days. So many in my neighbourhood. The bodies
were left to decay on the road.”
perpetrators involved during this period was one or other subversive group,
mainly the LTTE.
The Material Indicative of the Existence of a Political Dimension
involvement of politicians of the ruling party in abductions and disappearances
came to light in the evidence in many of the complaints inquired into by this
Commission. These witnesses took the Commission into their confidence, disclosed
the name of the politician concerned and described graphically the chain of
actions starting from a veiled or direct threat by the politician himself. There
were several instances where activists of legal political organisations would be
abducted and made to disappear “as punishment” for not supporting the particular
politician’s political party.
spectacle of impunity conspicuous in this period gave rise to the public
perception that such a spectacle could not have existed without the complicity
of the political leadership. This was evident from the fact that no police
station entertained complaints of disappearances. “Lists” of names of political
enemies were supplied to the security forces for elimination. The close
participation of the local politician in such activities was apparent to the
general public. There is also evidence that some abducted persons were confined
in residences of politicians and had disappeared thereafter. In this regard, the
role of the bodyguard has to be investigated. There is evidence that bodyguards
of politicians participated in the abduction of certain persons who have now
Responsibility of Armed Groups
evidence before this Commission has thrown up in sharp relief the need for a
recognition of the liability of armed groups for grave human rights abuses
committed by them – a recognition as a “right” of the victims of these abuses,
and not only a culpability arising from a breach of national criminal laws.
to pursue the establishment of liability, from the local to the international
levels, inevitably follows the recognition of such a “right” in the victim(s).
The full panoply of relief due for a breach of a “right” would also be available
then to victims of armed groups.
Rights Law has developed in response to identified needs. Historically, its
growth was in the context of the atrocities committed in World War II, so that
in the drafting of the principal International Human Rights instruments, the
atrocities addressed were those committed in an unbridled exercise of State
power. Additionally, generations growing up in the decades of
anti–colonial struggle following on from World War II have tended to consider
the actions of armed groups as taking place in the context of a struggle against
a repressive imperialist State that denied the identity of the colonised other
than as an object of the exercise of State power, and hence abuses by such
groups as being an inevitable fall–out.
time that the rights of the individual occupied centre–stage.
found that armed groups engage in every abuse of the most basic rights of the
individual, including the arbitrary deprivation of the right to life through
massacres of civilians, killings of suspected “informers” or those who merely
abstained from joining the particular armed group; repeated forced movements of
people (touchingly described by witnesses as “forced exodus”) and expulsions of
populations on the grounds of ethnic or religious background; the use of fear
and intimidation to silence critics; the practice of torture; the forced
abduction of children for use as combatants; and so on.
Commission accordingly recommends that the Government of Sri Lanka takes up at
the relevant international foray the issue of the need for the formulation and
promulgation of an international instrument on the subject of
the responsibility of armed groups.
Treaty Banning Landmines and the Treaty Establishing the International Criminal
Courts are precedents that already considered the liability of armed groups.
of course, be the vigour with which a State acts against State and allied
abusers of Human Rights that would invest that State’s actions against armed
groups with moral authority.
Paragraph (d) of the Mandate.
See Chapter IV on “The Legal Proceedings Regarding those Responsible”.
The Commissions are:
(i) The Commission of
Inquiry into Involuntary Removals and Disappearances of certain Persons (all
(ii) The Commission of Inquiry into Involuntary Removals or
Disappearances of Persons in the Central, North Western, North Central and
(iii) The Commission of Inquiry into Involuntary Removals or
Disappearances of Persons in the Western, Southern and Sabaragamuwa
(iv) The Commission of Inquiry into Involuntary Removals or
Disappearance of Persons in the North East Province.
(v) The Commission of Inquiry into the Establishment and
Maintenance of Places of Unlawful Detention and Torture Chambers at the
Batalanda Housing Scheme.
(vi) The Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry Probing into
the Assassination of Lieutenant General Denzil Kobbekaduwa and nine others
and causing serious injury to another at Araly, Kayts on 8th
(vii) The Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry Regarding the
Assassination of the late Lalith Athulathmudali PC and Connected Events.
(viii) The Special Presidential
Commission of Inquiry into the Assassination of Mr Vijaya Kumaratunga.
This last group of factors was usually associated with the perpetrators
The exceptions to this were the Jaffna incidents - see
separate chapter on Jaffna.
This was so all over the country, including
The ICRC established its office in Jaffna in May, 1990.
See separate chapter on Jaffna.
These acts are already criminal acts under Sri Lanka’s
The practice of Sri Lanka since 1994 has been to accord relief
to victims irrespective of whether the
was an armed group or the State. What is under consideration here is the
liability of an
armed group to
provide relief to their victims – this may be through restoration of
property and extend up to a personal liability in the leaders of the
respective armed groups.
See further Southern Commission’s Report on this subject.
Such a step would in no way be understood to be an implicit
recognition in any armed group of the
status of a
State Party to the ensuing Convention.
Posted on 2003-06-15