SRI LANKA: Two “white van” abductions within a few hours in Colombo


Urgent Appeal Case: UA-163-2007
ISSUES: Enforced disappearances and abductions,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been informed by the Civil Monitoring Commission (CMC) regarding the forcible abduction and disappearance of two men, Satkunarajah Sasindran and Robin Rosten, by armed men in white vans in separate incidents on 8 May 2007 in Colombo. The manner by which these victims were abducted is similar.


At around 9:30pm on 8 May 2007, five men riding in a white van had arrived at the residence of Robin Rosten at 87-4/5 Mayfield Road, Kotahena, Colombo. Robin’s wife, Jasmine, was told by a private security guard of their apartment that the policemen were looking for her husband and they have asked him to come down. Jasmine accompanied her husband to meet them.

According to Jasmine, one of the five men, was wearing a police uniform and was armed with a rifle. This officer had concealed the insignia bearing his service number. Four other persons were also seen waiting inside the white van. They told Jasmine that they wanted to take her husband Robin in order to obtain a statement from him and promised that they would send him back shortly.

They then took Robin with them towards a white van waiting nearby and left. Since then, however, Robin’s whereabouts remained unknown. Jasmine has already lodged complaint before the Kotahena police station and with the CMC.

At the time of incident, Robin was working as a private driver in Colombo. He originally came from Jaffna, Kayts, Ooraathurai before moving to Colombo five years ago.

In another incident, a few hours after Robin’s abduction, another man, Satkunarajah Sasindran, was forcibly abducted and disappeared in Vihara Lane, Wellawatte at around 11:30pm. Sasindran was at the time at his workplace in Sunrise Communication when five armed men, who arrived in a white van forcibly took him.

Sasindran’s fellow employee, who witnessed the incident, recounted that the perpetrators, who were carrying firearms, entered their workplace and ordered everybody to kneel down on the floor. Soon after, they called for Sasindan and dragged him towards the white van waiting outside. The white van was seen traveling towards the direction of Dehiwela.

Like Robin, Sasindan was also a native of Jaffna, Kattuwan, Tellipalai. He had come to Colombo with his mother in May 2006. Sasindan has since been working as a low-income employee of the said communication firm for two months. Sasindan’s mother, Sivadevi Satkunaraja, had lodged a complaint with the Wellawatte police station and the CMC.

In both cases, the pattern by which perpetrators carried out the abduction is similar. They were armed, wearing civilian clothes, and were riding in a white van.

Abductions carried out by armed men riding in white vans were common in Sri Lanka in previous decades and this phenomenon has re-emerged recently.

Robin and Sasindran’s abductions occurred within areas of Colombo, which is supposed to be well secured, given the numerous check points and security barricades in place. The two victims are employees earning small incomes. To date, the whereabouts of the two victims have remained unknown.

Please write letters to the concerned authorities requesting their immediate intervention to locate the whereabouts of the victims. Their families must also be actively engaged in this process. There must be an inquiry into the possible involvement by the police authorities into these cases, in particular the case of Robin Rosten. Please also urge the government to take proactive measures to prevent these incidents from reoccurring.

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Dear _________,

SRI LANKA: Two “white van” abductions within a few hours in Colombo

Case 1:
Name of disappeared victim: Satkunarajah Sasindran, 26 years old, a resident of 31/11N Bathiya Mawatha, Off Saranagkara Road, Dehiwela, Colombo. He is the holder of NIC# 811663875V.
Alleged perpetrators: Armed men riding in a white van
Place of incident: Inside the Sunrise Communication, Vihara Lane, Wellawatte, Colombo
Date of incident: At 11:30pm on 8 May 2007

Case 2:
Name of disappeared victim: Robin Rosten, 29 years old, a resident of 87-4/5 Mayfield Road, Kotahena, Colombo. He is the holder of NIC # 781454141V.
Alleged perpetrators: five armed men, one of whom wearing a police uniform, riding in white van
Place of incident: At his residence
Date of incident: At 9:30pm on 8 May 2007

I am writing to draw your attention regarding the disappearance of Satkunarajah Sasindran and Robin Rosten on 8 May 2007 in Colombo. Sasindran was forcibly abducted at his workplace in Vihara Lane, Wellawatte while Rosten was taken from his house in Mayfield Road, Kotahena, all in Colombo. In both incidents armed men took the two victims in white vans and their whereabouts remain unknown.

I am deeply concerned at the alarming pattern of abductions and disappearances in Sri Lanka in recent times and the absence of effective remedies for families of the disappeared to locate their loved ones. It is shocking that persons could be abducted and disappeared in public and from their houses yet little attempt is made to ascertain the identity of the perpetrators and locate the victim’s.

In these two cases, despite complaints filed by the victim’s relatives before the police stations and a group monitoring disappearances, there has not been substantial progress so far regarding police investigation. The absence of or difficulty in finding remedies and obtaining assistance for victim’s families is completely unacceptable. This is even more appalling given the present conditions.

I therefore urge you to exhaust all means possible to locate the whereabouts of the victims. The protection and assistance to their families must also be guaranteed as priority measures by the authorities. The police, where the complaints have been made, must actively involve the victims’ families and keep them informed of the progress of their investigation.

The extent of trauma and suffering the families of the victims have had to suffer for their disappeared loved ones is a serious concern, and authorities must take effective measures. Furthermore, the authorities must likewise initiate effective steps to prevent similar cases of abduction and disappearance from reoccurring.

I look forward to your immediate and effective action in this case.

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

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

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

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA-163-2007
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Enforced disappearances and abductions,