SRI LANKA: 20 forced disappearances reported in December 2005 


Urgent Appeal Case: UA-017-2005
ISSUES: Enforced disappearances and abductions,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes to inform you of a report by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) stating that enquiries are ongoing regarding 20 complaints of forced disappearances that are alleged to have taken place during the month of December 2005. In a statement issued on this matter by the AHRC today (AS-004-2006) we noted that the HRCSL’s director of Investigations and Inquiries stated that “some of these people have been abducted while on their way to work, while others have been abducted in the night.” He is further quoted as saying that the Commission has not been able to establish who is responsible for the abductions.

Owing to the disappearance of thousands of Sri Lankans in recent decades, and given that past experience dictates that forced disappearance in Sri Lanka entails the killing of persons following arrest, the AHRC believe it is imperative that authorities intervene in this matter now. It is essential to establish safeguards and mechanisms for the immediate receipt of complaints of forced disappearances and for prompt and impartial inquiries to be launched. These should include effective legal assistance for the filing of habeas corpus applications in courts and the quick adjudication of such applications.

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka should publish the names of all persons who are supposed to have been disappeared, to better inform the country about this matter and to enable all concerned persons to take appropriate measures to deal with such disappearances, including interventions with UN bodies that deal with disappearances and related issues.
We urge the Sri Lankan government to make a policy statement highlighting the government’s commitment to prevent all forced disappearances, to investigate all cases of disappearances and to prosecute all perpetrators irrespective of rank, position or political affiliation. Regardless of the intensification of the “ethnic conflict” there can be no justification for allowing disappearances to take place. Unless immediate measures are taken at this stage, the terrible experiences of the recent past may again become reality in Sri Lanka.

We also urge all UN agencies and the international community, notably the European Union, to take serious measures and express their concern to the Sri Lankan government in order to ensure that the occurrence of forced disappearances is brought to an end.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission

Suggested Action:

Please write letters of concern to the relevant authorities, including the Chairperson for the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, regarding this serious matter.

Suggested letter to authorities:

Dear ___________,

SRI LANKA: 20 forced disappearances reported in December 2005

On 10 January 2006, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka reported that 20 complaints of forced disappearances are alleged to have taken place during the month of December 2005.

I am aware that the Commission is unable to state who is responsible for these disappearances but said that some of the disappeared were abducted while on their way to work whilst others were abducted during the night.

Sri Lanka has had one of the world’s worst records for disappearances during the last four decades.  The reemergence of the disappearance phenomena in Sri Lanka will no doubt make those aware of the country’s past very nervous.  The habit of causing disappearance by way of abduction followed by torture, interrogation and later assassination and disposal of bodies has been a common phenomenon for which the armed forces and the police have been notorious.  There have also been allegations of abductions by non-state actors belonging to people of various armed groups.

The prevention of disappearances is a fundamental duty of the state under whatever conditions might prevail at the time.  I urge you to take appropriate action to immediately bring about measures to stop this practice from escalating.

Yours sincerely,


1. His Excellency the Hon. Mr Mahinda Rajapakse
President 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 (this is contact for Secretary to President)

2. Mr. Chandra Fernando.
Inspector General of Police (IGP)
New Secretariat
Colombo 1
Fax: +94 11 2 440440/327877

3. Mr. K. C. Kamalasabesan
Attorney General
Attorney General’s Department
Colombo 12
Fax: +94 11 2 436 421

4. National Police Commission
3rd Floor, Rotunda Towers,
109 Galle Road
Colombo 03
Tel: +94 11 2 395310
Fax: +94 11 2 395867
Fax HOME: +94 11 2 674148

5. Mr. Diego Garcia-Sayan,
c/o Tanya Smith
Secretary a.i.
UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
C/o OHCHR-UNOG, 1211 Geneva 10,
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (Attn: Working Group on Disappearances)



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Suggested letter to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka:

Dear Dr. Coomaraswarmy

SRI LANKA: 20 forced disappearances reported in December 2005

I appreciate the initial action you have taken in order to bring the government’s attention to the disappearances that have begun to reemerge in the country.  Your action clearly demonstrates the principles that under no circumstances are disappearances legitimate or accepted.  Disappearances are a crime against humanity.

I wish to urge the following action to be taken by you to avert a great danger of the escalation of disappearances.

1. Publicise all credible complaints of disappearances.
2. Make provisions within the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka to provide legal assistance for all complainants to file habeas corpus applications in all cases of alleged disappearances.
3. Request the government to take extraordinary measures at this stage to prevent such disappearances from escalating.
4. Seek the assistance of all relevant UN agencies, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Working Group on Disappearances, all UN Rapporteurs and all other concerned parties in the local and international community to be involved in the effort to take preventive action on this matter.

I trust you will take these actions without delay.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy
Chairperson Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka 
No. 36, Kynsey Road 
Colombo 8 
Tel: +94 11 2 694925 / 673806 
Fax: +94 11 2 694924 / 696470 

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA-017-2005
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Enforced disappearances and abductions,