Amnesty fears for Vavuniya missing

[TamilNet, Thursday, 24 December 1998, 00:43 GMT]
Amnesty International has expressed its concern about the disappearance of the eight Tamil youths and men who went missing in Vavuniya district between 27 October and 21 December 1998. The disappearances have been attributed to the Sri Lanka Army and members of the Peoples Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), said Amnesty, adding that most of the disappeared are internally displaced people.

The missing people are Pakiyaratnam Yogeswaran (16), Subramaniam Atpudarasa (17), Selvarasa Tamilchelvam (16), Mylvaganam Jayaseelan (23), Lakshman Ketheeswaran (22), Nadarasa Rajaratnam (30), Veeraiah Udayakumar (30) and Gunakularasa Danushan (17) said a press release from the London based human rights group issued yesterday.

Veeraiah Udayakumar was last seen being taken away from his home at Sittamparapuram on 27 October by members of PLOTE, said Amnesty, adding that Lakshman Ketheeswaran was taken into custody the same day in the same area at around 10am.

Nadarasa Rajaratnam was also taken into custody from his home at 92/6 Sittamparapuram at around 6pm on 4 November by members of PLOTE said Amnesty.

Sittamparapuram is a camp originally established for refugees who returned from India to Sri Lanka but who were unable to resettle in their homes due to the ongoing conflict.

It is suspected that members of PLOTE took them into custody at their Kovilkulam camp, but to date they have denied any knowledge of the men's disappearances, said Amnesty.

Amnesty said Gunakularasa Danushan, a student, was arrested on 22 November on his way from Maharabakulam, Poonthoddam to Vavuniya town. He was taken away in a white van known to be used by the Sri Lankan Army, however SLA officials deny he is in their custody, said Amnesty.

Pakiyaratnam Yogeswaran was last seen being taken into custody at around 11am on 25 November while having a bath at a well near Veppankulam camp, said Amnesty. He is originally from Sandilipai, Jaffna, but had been living in the Veppankulam camp for displaced people since February 1997.

It is suspected that the SLA took him into custody, but to date army authorities have denied his detention, said Amnesty.

On 20 December, Mylvaganam Jayaseelan from Kurumankadu was seen being taken away by two men travelling on a motorcycle in front of Shanthi clinic, Vairakuliyankulam. It is suspected the abductors were members of PLOTE, said Amnesty, adding that to date his fate or whereabouts have not been established.

On 21 December, Subramaniam Atpudarasa and Selvarasa Tamilchelvam were seen being taken into custody by PLOTE at Kovilkulam, said Amnesty. They both work at the Asian Cool Bar, Vairakuliyankulam, Vavuniya and had been on their way to see a friend in Kovilkulam.

It is suspected they too are detained at Kovilkulam PLOTE camp but PLOTE leaders are denying that they are in their custody, said Amnesty.

Amnesty International says it has repeatedly expressed concern about the persistent use of unauthorized places of detention, particularly by armed Tamil groups opposed to the Liberation Tigers.

In Vavuniya, evidence has emerged of three unofficial detention places run by members of PLOTE after one prisoner escaped in September 1998, said Amnesty.

During a visit to Vavuniya later that month, Amnesty International delegates found evidence of severe torture at two unauthorized places of detention run by members of PLOTE at Kovilkulam and Rambaikulam.

Around that time, approximately 40 prisoners were estimated to be held in unacknowledged detention at these places.

Amnesty said it has welcomed the introduction by the government of measures to safeguard the welfare of detainees. These include the requirement that detainees only be held in officially gazetted places of detention; that keeping a detainee in an unauthorized place is an offence; and that each arrest has to be reported immediately to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRC), and not later than 48 hours from the time of arrest.

Amnesty International says that it understands that members of the SLA in Vavuniya have repeatedly failed to inform the HRC of arrests and detentions within the stipulated period.

Despite continuing appeals by local and international organizations, no action has been taken to bring an end to the use of unauthorized places of detention by PLOTE, says Amnesty.


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