SRI LANKA: Former AG, Mohan Peiris summoned to court in disappearance inquiry of Prageeth Eknaligoda
The former Attorney General, Mohan Peiris, has been ordered to appear before the Homagama Magistrate's Court and to reveal what he knows about the whereabouts of Prageeth Eknalilgoda, the journalist who has been missing since January 24, 2010. At the official session of the United Nations Committee against Torture, held last November, the former Attorney General representing Sri Lanka as a state party told the Committee that he had learned that Prageeth Eknalilgoda is living in a foreign country. Prageeth Eknalilgoda's wife, Sandaya Eknaligoda, through her lawyers made a request to the Magistrate's Court inquiring into the circumstances of the disappearance of her husband, to summon the former Attorney General and to request him to divulge the information he has on the whereabouts of her husband. The state represented by a solicitor general objected to this request. Yesterday, May 17, the court made order allowing her request.
Meanwhile Sandaya Eknaligoda has also written to the Human Rights Committee requesting it to call the Attorney General and question him about his statement. In a letter written on May 14, 2012 she has detailed her communications with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) on this matter. We reproduce below a translation of the full text of her letter.
The HRCSL is designed in terms of internationally known principles which require it to be a victim-friendly institution. The very mandate of the HRCSL is the protection and promotion of human rights. However, it is regrettable to note that the HRCSL's performance is disappointing to the victims and it has become an institution which protects the alleged perpetrators. The following words of Sandaya Eknaligoda echo the feelings of many other victims of human rights violations including the victims of forced disappearances and abductions.
"There are medicines even for victims who were subject to cruel physical torture. Yet the mental torture is more fearsome. It haunts in the daytime and the nighttime. Because there are no scars on the surface, the trauma cannot be seen by society."
The moral legitimacy of an institution like the HRCSL lies in the humane sensibility with which it approaches the victims of alleged abuses of human rights. Among such victims the worst sufferers are those who have lost loved ones. They approach the institutions such as the HRCSL with their agonies in the hope that at least some semblance of humanity is still left for those like them in such institutions. When the HRCSL disappoints them the very reason for its existence becomes questionable.
We reproduce below the full text of the translation:
Justice (retired) Priyantha Perera
Chairman, Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission
HRC 369/2010 Regarding the statement made by Mr. Mohan Peiris in front of the UN CAT Committee regarding the complaint of HRC/369/2010 disappearance of Mr. Prageeth Ekneligoda
I herewith summarize the steps that your institution took in relation to the complaint HRC/369/2010, dated 2nd February 2010, made by myself, Sandaya Eknaligoda, the wife of the named journalist, on the disappearance of the journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, which occurred on the 24th of January 2010.
1. I made a complaint to your institution on the 2nd of February 2010 (at the first instance, my complaint was not accepted by the officer, but after arguing and further explanations it was recorded).
2. The Human Rights Commission (HRC) summoned me and the Headquarters Inspector of Police (HQI) Homagama on 8th February 2010, but he did not come. My statements were recorded.
3. On 12th February 2010, myself and HQI Homagama were summoned to the HRC and questioned.
4. On the 15th of February 2010, myself and Mr. Janaka were asked to come to the Special Operation Unit of the Headquarters of Inspector of Police, Nugegoda.
5. HQI Thalangama and I were summoned to go to the HRC for an inquiry on the 4th of March and 16th of March.
6. On the 16th of March 2010, the commission held an inquiry but HQI Thalangama was not present, he was represented by another officer.
7. On the 9th of August 2011, I wrote to the HRC requesting a discussion in order to get to know the progress of the inquiry. (I did not get a response.)
8. On the 30th of November 2011, I called for an inquiry by your commission into the statements made by the legal advisor to the cabinet and former Attorney General Mr. Mohan Peiris, who spoke before the UN CAT Committee on the case of Prageeth Eknaligoda ("That Mr. Eknaligoda is… he has taken refuge in a foreign country"). I requested that both Mr. Mohan Peiris and myself should be present at the inquiry. (I did not get a response.)
9. On the 3rd of January 2012, I made a second written requested that your commission (the HRC), should summon Mr. Mohan Peiris.
10. On 27th January 2012, I received a copy of a letter sent to Mr. Mohan Peiris from the Chairman of the Human Rights Commission requesting an affidavit.
11. In the letter dated 9th of February 2012, I re-requested you to summon Mr. Mohan Peiris before the HRC and inquire into the evidence that Mr. Mohan Peiris had and find Prageeth Eknaligoda.
12. In the letter dated 15th February 2012 you told me that the Human Rights Commission does not make inquiries on the request of just any kind of person, and you further told me not to make any more requests in the future.
According to the experience that I had, your commission conducts inquiries after calling both parties. The Inquiry Officer Mr. Faumi knows these procedures very well.
Mr. Mohan Peiris, who declared publicly that the police inquiry found that Prageeth Eknaligoda is alive, was not brought before you for an inquiry, and you told me that the reason is that you do not hold inquiries on the request of just any kind of person.
I have been told on several occasions that you conduct inquiries based on newspaper reports of human rights violations.
Yet my experience is that your commission has not paid any attention to the newspaper articles and statements published in relation to the disappearance of my husband, Prageeth Eknaligoda.
Prageeth Eknaligoda is one among the thousands who have disappeared in Sri Lanka. This is only one complaint. Yet Prageeth is the only person who is said to be alive in another country, according to the revelations made by senior government officials in front of the United Nations. Thus, I must carry out my duty to find out the whereabouts of Prageeth Eknaligoda.
I have a lot of questions about the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission. In would like to raise these two questions to you:
1. According to the letter dated 17th of January 2012, you have requested an affidavit from Mr. Mohan Peiris. Now a hundred days have passed from the request of that letter. I plead with your commission that if he has provided that affidavit, please give a copy to me and my two children.
2. I thought that Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission was a place where the victims of human rights violations could get justice even without legal representation. Yet, when I made a complaint as a victim, the Chairman told me that the Human Rights Commission is not conducting inquiries based on the requests of just any kind of person. If that is true, then could you kindly tell me where can I go for assistance?
There are medicines even for victims who were subject to cruel physical torture. Yet the mental torture is more fearsome. It haunts in the daytime and the nighttime. Because there are no scars on the surface, the trauma cannot be seen by the society. The best example is when I was participating at a side event in Geneva on the 19th of March 2012, Mr. Douglas Wickremaratne said I was not a victim as I smiled.
Mr. Mohan Peiris, the legal advisor to the Cabinet and former Attorney General, continually tortures me and my two children by not revealing the whereabouts of Mr. Prageeth Eknaligoda.
On many occasions my sorrowful mind has felt that the Chairman and the other officers of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission are assisting him.
CC: 1. All the commissioners of the Human Rights Commission
2. Working Group on Enforced Disappearances of the United Nations
3. The Committee Against Torture at the United Nations
4. Human Rights institutions and public organisations