Two human rights organisations, the Sri Lanka Human Rights Centre and the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE) issued a statement on December 11, 2011 expressing concern and shock regarding the disappearances of Lalith Kumar Weeraju and Kugan Murugan while they were engaged in activities in preparation of the Human Rights Day. Both of them were traveling on a motorcycle and now both persons and the motorcycle are missing.
Lalith Kumar Weeraju has been working for the release of persons from the north kept under detention. He was known to be a dedicated young man working in difficult circumstances to promote human rights.
He had been threatened several times relating to his protest over forced disappearances and illegal detention. Once he was taken into military custody relating to the same activities. Many times he was warned not to engage in such human rights work as they were considered to be political activities in the eyes of the military and other authorities.
In recent months there have several disappearances in different parts of the country. In one instance the body of a person named Mohammed Niyas, a caretaker of a local temple, was found several weeks after his disappearance.
The local Human Rights organisations have called for an immediate inquiry into these disappearances and to find the whereabouts of the two persons. The government has not responded to these calls.
The Sri Lankan government has refused to make forced disappearances a crime punishable in the country. it has also refused to sign the UN Convention against Forced Disappearances. At the 47th Session of the Committee against Torture the Committee made the following recommendations regarding Sri Lanka in their concluding observations:
The State party should:
(a) Take all the necessary measures to ensure that enforced disappearance is established as an offence in its domestic law;
(b) Ensure that the cases of enforced disappearances are thoroughly and effectively investigated, that suspects are prosecuted and those found guilty punished with sanctions proportionate to the gravity of their crimes;
(c) Ensure that the any individual who has suffered harm as the direct result of an enforced disappearance has access to information about the fate of the disappeared person, as well as to fair and adequate compensation;
(d) Adopt measures to clarify the outstanding cases of enforced disappearances and comply with the request to visit by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (A/HRC/16/48, para. 450).
The Committee furthermore calls upon the State party to consider ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.
The Asian Human Rights Commission urges the Sri Lankan government to inquire into the disappearances of Lalith Kumar Weeraju and Kugan Murugan and to save their lives.