AI lauds UN Human Rights Committee ruling on missing Tamil

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 01 September 2004, 14:27 GMT]
Amnesty International welcomed the recent ruling by the UN Human Rights Committee in the first case from Sri Lanka submitted under the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) concerning the “disappearance” of Thevarajah Sarma in favour of the relatives of the victim. The UN Human Rights Committee has ruled that the Government of Sri Lanka is responsible for the “disappearance” and is under an obligation to provide Thevarajah Sarma’s family with an effective remedy.

Mary Gorretty Mariathas
Mary Gorretty Mariathas, an 18-year-old student from Jaffna town, disappeared in 1996 following a cordon and search operation by the SLA.
The UN Human Rights Committe ruled that the effective remedy by the Government of Sri Lanka should include a thorough and effective investigation into his “disappearance” and his immediate release if he is still alive, adequate information resulting from its investigation and adequate compensation for the violations suffered by his family.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Amnesty International said:

“This is the first “disappearance” case in Sri Lanka to be brought under the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR and constitutes a considerable victory for the family and for victims of “disappearances” in general in Sri Lanka. Thevarajah Sarma was arrested by the army on 23 June 1990, along with three other young Tamil men, during a cordon and search operation in Anpuvalipuram, Trincomalee district.

“Tens of thousands of "disappearances" by the security forces in Sri Lanka have occurred in connection with two separate conflicts: the war between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil separatist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), as well as the insurrection in the late 1980's by an opposition group from the majority Sinhalese community, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) or People's Liberation Front.

”Amnesty International has been campaigning for many years for the government to investigate all the cases of "disappearance", to compensate the victims and their families and to bring to justice those found responsible for the “disappearances”.

“Three Presidential Commissions of Inquiry into the Involuntary Removal or Disappearance of Persons were established in 1994 to inquire into and report on involuntary removals and "disappearances" that took place after 1 January 1988. The Commissions investigated a total of 27,526 complaints and found evidence of "disappearance" in 16,742 cases.

A further 10,136 alleged complaints – which were not investigated by the earlier Commissions - were investigated by a fourth Presidential Commission of Inquiry (sometimes referred to as the All Island Commission). The report of the All Island Commission, made public in 2001, recorded evidence of 4,473 cases of "disappearance".

Thus more than 20,000 “disappeared” persons were presumed to have been killed in custody.

About 4,000 suspected individual perpetrators were identified, about 500 of whom have been indicted, but these have resulted in only very few convictions in the courts.

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (Working Group) has raised 12,297 cases of "disappearance" with the Sri Lankan government. The Sri Lanka government has provided information on 11,673 outstanding cases, but very few are clarified and the majority are still under consideration by the Working Group.

In December 2002, a Committee was appointed under the Human Rights Commission to investigate reports of over six hundred cases of "disappearance" which took place in Jaffna district during 1996 and 1997. Six hearings into a total of 327 cases have been held and a report of the findings of the Committee is due to be made public at the end of September 2003.

Following a cease-fire agreement by the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE in February 2002, no further “disappearances” have been reported”, the Amnesty statement concludes.


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