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The Commission has been mandated by Your Excellency to investigate into the Following:


(A) Whether any persons have been in voluntarily removed or have disappeared from their places of residence in the Northern Province and Eastern Province at any time after January 1, 1988;

(B) The evidence available to establish such alleged removals or disappearances;

(C) The present whereabouts of the persons alleged to have been so removed or to have so disappeared;

(D) Whether there is any credible material indicative of the persons responsible for the alleged removals or disappearances;

(E) The legal proceedings that can be taken against the persons held to be so responsible;

(F) The measures necessary to prevent the occurrence of such alleged activities in the future;

(G) The relief, if any, that should be afforded to the parents, spouses and dependants of the persons alleged to have been so removed or to have so disappeared and to make such recommendations with reference to any of the matters that have been inquired into under the terms of the warrant.


As regards section (A) of the Mandate: Whether any persons have been involuntarily removed or have disappeared from their places of residence, the obvious response is a resounding “Yes”.


People from all stations of life, from wives of labourers, to wives of principals of schools and parents, all came with their tearful stories of their family members taken into custody by security service personnel or by militant groups. There is no doubt that there had been a large scale involuntary removal of people from their places of residence.


Regarding Mandate  (B), i.e. the evidence available to establish such alleged removals or disappearances,  there have been large scale corroborative evidence by relatives, neighbours and fellow human beings, as most of these arrests were done in full public view, often from refugee camps and during cordon and search operations where large number of people witnessed the incidents.


Regarding Mandate (C), i.e. the present whereabouts of the persons alleged to have been so removed or to have so disappeared, the Commission faced a blank wall in this investigation. On the one hand the security service personnel denied any involvement in arrests in spite of large scale corroborative evidence of this culpability. They also denied the existence of any undisclosed detention camps where the arrested could have been kept pending the emergence of Civil Peace. In this situation the Commission feels that a separate investigation and much more time are necessary for the determination of this issue.


The fact is that Army arrested people in large in large numbers. The Army only can answer what happened to the corpus of those arrested. It was no use denying that they have much to do with these arrests.


Regarding mandate (D), i.e. whether there is any credible material indicative of the person or persons responsible for the alleged removals or disappearances, according to the evidence recorded, 90% of the removal was ascribed to the security forces – Army, Navy, Airforce and the Police. L.T.T.E. also was responsible for its own share of removals. Other militant groups also are in the picture. The name of some officers comes up often in the course of inquiries. Captain Suresh  Cassim, Major Suraweera, Dean of Dyke Road, Trincomalee, Richard Peiris of Trincomalee police, Captain Munaz, Captain Palitha, Capt. Guneratne, Major Majeed and Major Mohan of Kommathurai army camp in 1990, Captain G.L Perera and Inspector Soyza of Ampara Police area are some of the Army and Police Officers against whom there is enough evidence in our files for initiating prosecution.


Your Excellency’s next poser was Mandate (E) the legal proceedings that can be taken against the person held to be so responsible. The Commission feels that on ex-parte evidence alone, it cannot decide on the guilt of these people. Hence, proper inquiries have to be undertaken and evidence given by the complainants should stand the scrutiny of cross-examination. This is a task we leave for the next Commission.


Regarding the Mandate (F), the measures necessary to prevent the occurrence of such alleged activities in the future, Sri Lanka has already taken ancillary measures to prevent the excesses happening again. The directions issued by His Excellency the President and the Regulation 08 of The Emergency (Establishment of Human Rights Task Force) Regulation No. 01 of 1985.


These require the Army and the arresting parties to ensure the fundamental rights of persons arrested or detained and such persons to be treated humanely. These seek to ensure that the officer making arrests or detentions shall identify himself to the person arrested or any relative or friend of such person by name and rank. Every person arrested shall be informed the reason for the arrest. A document containing the name and rank of the arresting officer, the time and date of arrest and the place of detention shall be specified in such documents. This is to be given to the spouse, father or mother or close relative of the person arrested. If he is unable to issue a document he shall make an entry in the nearest Police Station or if he belongs to the armed services to report to the O.I.C of the Police station why he is unable to issue a document.


The members of the Human Rights Task force should be permitted access to the arrested person. These and other regulations are already in the Statute Book but this will not be of much help unless they are properly enforced. In this connection the Commission wishes to endorse an observation made by “Asia Watch” report on 31st May, 1992, which reads as follows:


“It was not enough to point to an impressive array of laws and institutional mechanisms adopted to protect and promote human rights. Unless these laws and mechanisms are utilised to secure the effective enforcement of rights, and unless that enforcement is strictly monitored, the introduction of such measures will serve only a

cosmetic purpose. Such measures may enable a Government to deflect, for a limited time, criticism that it is failing to fulfil its international human rights obligations. They will do little to improve the human rights situation in the long term unless individual members of the security forces are held accountable – and are seen to be held accountable for human rights violations they commit”


In any case these regulations will not touch on the basic problem which creates deep fissures in society. Two problems are facing this country. One is the problem of the youth which took militant form under the J.V.P. The other is ethnic problems which takes militant form under the L.T.T.E. These two problems unless handled with vision and statesmanship will distort all organs of Society and make the Army arbiter in national issues.


Your Excellency has taken the correct decision and especially in the ethnic sphere, Your Excellency’s proposals could be adopted as a basic policy of the land.


The next question (G) Your Excellency posed was a relief that should be afforded to the parents, spouses or dependants of the persons alleged to have been removed. The Commission has worked out a Compensation Scheme in accordance with the circular issued by the Ministry of Public Administration No.21/88of 13th July, 1988 and this is only a token of the concern of the Government for deprivation suffered by the affected families. Money in any quantity will not compensate the absence of the bread-winner, the love of the father, the duty of the son for the family. But money helps in some way to cushion the blow.


As far as the compensation is concerned we have to issue a note of caution. Some of these complainants have already obtained compensation through the Ministry of Rehabilitation. Steps have to be taken to ensure that there is no double payment.


In addition to compensation certain other measures have to be taken to help these families whose bread-winners are removed from them. We recommend at least one person in such families who has the minimum-

qualifications be given employment either in the State Sector or in the Private Sector. Where people do not possess minimum qualifications they should be given vocational training at State expense to ensure that one person in the family is employable.


We suggest that:


1. Dependants of all public servants, employees of semi-Government bodies, Statutory Corporations, who have disappeared must be paid the salaries of the disappeared till they reach the age of retirement and thereafter they must be entitled for pension. No distinction must be drawn among permanent, pensionable, casual, temporary employees etc.

2. Dependent family members who are not caught up in the above category must be brought under an effective and meaningful social security system.

3. The Commission was able to identify malnutrition among the children of the disappeared. The existing programme of fight against malnutrition should be extended to them as well.

4. A portion of Scholarships for higher education should be reserved for the hildren of the disappeared.


The Commission has already found that the immediate family members of the victims are facing legal and administrative problems, some of which needs special attention. We refer to the problems arising out of the state of legal uncertainty of those who have disappeared due to lack of proof. Family members face problems connected with their civil status, inheritance, widows and orphans pensions. Even though Government had made it possible for them to have a person registered as dead if he had not been seen for over an year, this had not been brought to the notice of the family members of the disappeared. It is recommended that action should be taken at the level of the Divisional Administration, to make this development, well known.

Posted on 2002-08-30


Cyberspace Graveyard for Disappeared Persons
Asian Human Rights Commission

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