SRI LANKA: Two persons disappear in separate incidents


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-119-2008
ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest & detention, Enforced disappearances and abductions, Police negligence, Police violence,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the disappearance of two persons, one of them a student, in separate incidents in February and May of this year. The student victim was taken by persons who were described as policemen into a white van. The other victim was last seen on his way to a naval camp after an officer had invited him for a party. The whereabouts of these two persons remain unknown.



On 1 May 2008, 18-year-old Kathiravelu Sathyawan had gone to a friend’s place where he spent time playing board game, Carrom. Soon after, several persons, who were described later by witnesses as officers from the Criminal Information Department (CID), arrived. They were travelling in a white van and accompanied by another person on a red motorcycle.

At around, 10pm to 11pm, the said officers approached the victim and forcibly took him away towards their van. Kathiravelu’s friends witnessed the incident.

The following day, May 2, Kathiravelu’s friends informed his parents about the incident. At about 5pm, Kathiravelu’s mother, Subramanium Mariamma, went to the Katharagama Police Station to report her son’s forcible abduction and subsequent disappearance. However, the police officer who was on duty seating on the desk had scoffed at her and refused to record her complaint which is in direct contravention of the regulations laid out in the Sri Lankan Police Orders under section C-1, Prosecution of Offenders

i. The law requires every investigation to be completed without delay (Section 131) and as the whole object of a criminal investigation is to elicit the truth and place the truth before Court, the sooner the, evidence of the complainant and his witnesses is recorded by the Magistrate the better. If their evidence is promptly recorded there is far less chance of the parties compounding the case or of the witnesses going back on their original statements to the Police owing to the influence of interested parties.

She was told: “Your son must have eloped with a girl. You can make some inquiries”. The said police officer, too, did not record her complaint.

For several days, from May 3 to 5, Kathiravelu’s parents had repeatedly made a follow up visits to the Katharagama Police Station about their son’s case. However, the police, in contravention of the aforementioned regulation, repeatedly refused to register the complaint on the pretext that their son could have just eloped with a woman. They also did not help them either in locating their son whereabouts or obtaining information about his case.

It was only in May 6 that the police had finally accepted their complaint and allowed her to make a short entry. The police recorded the complaint and had it signed by Kathiravelus’ parents. However, they never allowed the couple to read or explained to them what was written in the police entry.

Prior to his disappearance, Kathiravelu’s parents recounted that there have been several occasion wherein unknown persons, who had introduced themselves as the officers attached to the CID in Katharagama, had come to their house. They asked details about the family, particularly about Kathiravelu.

On May 8, when Kathiravelu’s parents went to the Katharagama Police Station, they were told that some of the police officers had come to their house while they were away. They had conducted searches and took a photograph of Kathiravelu. On the same day also these persons had gone to Janadhipathi Vidyalya where Kathiravelu was studying and had inquired from his school principal about him.

When Kathiravelu’s parents heard that their son had been detained at the Army Camp near the Katharagama Depot, they proceeded to the place but he did not find him there. They likewise did not get any information about him.

Kathiravelu’s parents had already filed a complaint about his forcible abduction and subsequent disappearance with the Inspector General of Police (IGP), District Inspector General (Legal), Senior Superintendent of Police Hambanatota, Officer in Charge of the Katharagama Police, the National Human Rights Commission Sri Lanka and National Police Commission (NPC) and the Special Unit of Ministry of Disaster Management and Human rights.


It was on February 6 that victim, Joseph Arul Fernando, was last seen on his way to the Kalpitiya Navy Camp. Joseph went there after he had been requested by one of the Navy personnel to join a party for his daughter’s birthday.

From his home, Joseph was carrying some bottles of alcohol and some small food for the party which was supplied to him by his brother’s wife, Varuni. However, since then Joseph has not returned home. When inquiries were made with the navy personnel, they denied that there was a party although they had acknowledged that they had requested a party.

However, there was information that two days after Joseph disappears, he was seen inside the Navy Camp. Meanwhile, some of the Navy officers had also begun extorting money from Joseph’s family in exchange for his release. Wanting to get him back, on February 28 and 29, Joseph’s family has decided to pay over Rs 150,000 to these persons. However, even after paying though they never produced Joseph or revealed his whereabouts.

On February 8, Joseph’s family made complaints regarding his disappearance with the Kalpitiya Police Station; the National Human Rights Commission in Colombo on February 8 and 13; the Ministry of Human Rights on February 12 and Police Headquarters on May 12.

Please write letters to the relevant authorities to investigate into the disappearance of these two men. The authorities must exhaust all means to locate these victims and ensure that the security forces involved are subjected to an investigation.

The AHRC has also written to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance calling for their intervention.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Human Rights and Disaster Management has introduced a Disappearances Hotline, the numbers for which is: 94 11 2676513 and 94 60 2119246 and family members and friends are encouraged to make reports to this office.

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Dear __________,

SRI LANKA: Please exhaust all means to locate two persons disappeared in separate incidents

Name of victim: Kathiravelu Sathyawan, 18 years old; a resident of Gothami Gama, near Goyagala, Katharagama; he was studying at the Janadipathi Vidyalya, Kataragama.
Alleged perpetrators: Several officers attached to the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) in Katharagama 
Date of disappearance: 1 May 2008
Place of incident: In Katharagama

Case 2:
Name of victim: Joseph Arul Fernando, 38 years old; a resident of No. 20 Shramadana Mawatha, Eththukala, Negombo
Alleged perpetrators: Navy officers in Kalpitiya 
Date of disappearance: 6 February 2008 
Place of incident: In Kalpitiya

I am writing to draw your attention regarding the disappearance of two persons in separate incidents in which the security forces had been involved.

I have learned that May 1, 18-year-old student Kathiravelu Sathyawan had been forcibly taken from a place where he was playing with his friends. Those who had forcibly abducted him and took him to unknown direction were persons described by witnesses as those attached to the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) in Katharagama.

Kathiravelu was seized from a funeral house. He was taken in a white van. His whereabouts remains unknown to date. I am informed that his parents have tried for several occasions to file a complaint about the abduction and subsequent disappearance of their son but the Katharagama police station did not take any action.

It was only on May 6, five days after the victim’s disappearance, that their complaint was given attention. However, though they recorded their complaint it was never shown to them not it was properly explained to them as to what has been written by the police when he took the statement from them.

Meanwhile, I have also learned that another man, Joseph Arul Fernando, had also disappeared while on his way to a naval camp in Kalpitiya where he supposedly joined a party after having been invited by one of the personnel there. He was last seen on his way to camp but have not been able to return home.

However, two days after his disappearance, there was information that Joseph was seen inside the naval camp. When his family made an inquiry into the matter, some of the naval officers has instead demanded money from then in exchange for his supposed released. In compliance though, on February 28 and 29, his family gave the Navy officers a sum of over Rs. 150,000 but they never showed him to them.

I am shocked by the involvement of the security forces into the disappearance of these two persons. I therefore strongly urge you to take all available measures to exhaust all means in locating their whereabouts. The security forces accused of allegedly having involvement should be subjected to an investigation.

The Katharagama police station should be held to account for refusing to take prompt action into Kathiravelu’s case. Also, the naval officers who had allegedly extorted money from Joseph’s family in exchange for his released should also be subjected to an investigation to answer the allegations against them.

I urge that all process of the investigations into these cases should be properly relayed to the families of these victims regularly.

Yours sincerely,


1. Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse
Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka
C/- Office of the President
Temple Trees
150, Galle Road
Colombo 3
Fax: +94 11 2472100 / +94 11 2446657

2. Mr. Ratnasiri Wickremanayake
Prime Minister
Temple Trees
Galle Road, Colombo 03
Fax: +94 11 2 575454
Tel: +94 11 2 575317-8 or 370 737-8

3. Mr. Amarasiri Dodangoda, MP
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice and Law Reforms
Superior Courts Complex,
Colombo 12
Fax: 94 11 2325354 / 2445446
Tel: 94 11 2384837, 2324681, 2392932

4. Mr. Rohitha Bogollagama, MP
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mnistry of Foreign Affairs
Republic Building, Colombo 01,
Sri Lanka
Fax: +94-11-2446091
Tel: +94-11-2325371 / 5

5. The Secretary
Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order
15/5, Baladaksha Mawatha,
Colombo 03,
Fax: 94 11 2 446300 or 421529
Tel: 94-11 2 430860-9, 430878-9 or 435879 (for the secretary)

6. Mr. Victor Perera
Inspector General of Police
New Secretariat
Colombo 1
Fax: +94 11 2 440440/327877

7. Mr. Neville Piyadigama
National Police Commission
3rd Floor, Rotunda Towers,
109 Galle Road
Colombo 03
Fax: +94 11 2 395867
Tel: +94 11 2 395310

8. The Secretary
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka
No. 36, Kynsey Road
Colombo 8
Fax: +94 11 2 694 924 / 696 470
Tel: +94 11 2 694 925 / 673 806

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (