SRI LANKA: One Catholic priest and a man disappear
August 30, 2006
[NOTICE: The AHRC have developed a new automatic letter-sending system using the "button" below. However, we also encourage you to send your appeal letters via fax or post to the Sri Lankan aurhorities. Fax numbers and postal addresses of the Sri Lankan authorities are attached below with this appeal. Thank you.]
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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
30 August 2006
UA-280-2006: SRI LANKA: One Catholic priest and a man disappear
SRI LANKA: Disappearance; government's inaction to locate the missing persons
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from the church-run Centre for Peace and Reconciliation (CPR) regarding a disappearance of Fr. Thiruchchelvan Nihal Jim Brown (34) and Mr. Wenceslaus Vinces Vimalathas since 20 August 2006. They were last seen at a military checkpoint situated at the entrance to Allaipiddy in conflict ongoing Jaffna peninsula, Sri Lanka. A complaint lodged with Kayts police as well as the Human Rights Commission regarding their disappearance but there has been no serious action by the government authorities to locate their whereabouts so far. Meanwhile, it is reported that Fr. Jim Brown had been allegedly accused of helping the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to dig bunkers by the Naval commanding officer of Allaipiddy before the incident.
At around 12:30 pm on 20 August 2006, Fr. Thiruchchelvan Nihal Jim Brown left Kayts on his motorbike with Mr. Wenceslaus Vinces Vimalathas to go to Mandaithevu to say Mass for displaced people who had sought shelter in a Hindu temple. However, Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) personnel at the entrance to Mandaithevu did not allow him to say Mass so he left.
Fr. Brown then proceeded toward Jaffna to return to Kayts. On his way there he met Rev. Fr. Peter Thurairatnam on a motorbike between Madaithivu checkpoint and Allaipiddy checkpoint of the SLN personnel at around 2:00 pm. Fr. Jim Brown, Mr. W.V. Vimalathas and Fr. Peter Thurairatnam traveled together up to the SLN checkpoint at the entrance to Allaipiddy. They reached the checkpoint nearly 2:10pm. At the checkpoint Fr. Jim Brown told Fr. Peter that he wanted to go to Allaipiddy, where he was the newly appointed parish priest (he was so appointed in July).
According to Fr. Peter, SLN personnel showed an abnormal reaction when Fr. Jim Brown said that he would go Allaipiddy. Fr. Peter felt like going with Fr. Jim Brown to Allaipiddy, but proceeded to his parish at Naranthanai, hoping nothing would happen to him. It was the last time Fr. Jim Brown was last seen before his disappearance. They never returned and efforts to track them down have so far proved useless. Later, the SLN personnel at the said checkpoint claimed that Fr. Jim Brown with Mr. W.V. Vimalathas went to Allaipiddy but gave different versions about their departure.
Prior to Fr. Brown's disappearance, on August 12, over 20 people were killed in Allaipiddy in crossfire between the security forces and LTTE. During the crossfire, Fr. Brown's parish church of St Philip Neri, where many people sought shelter, came under fire. He and his parishioners then ran to an open bunker and saved their lives. The next day afternoon (August 13), he took most of the people of the village - about 800 - to St. Mary's Church in neighboring Kayts, literally begging the Navy troops on his knees to be allowed to go there. Shortly afterwards, Fr. Brown was scolded by the Navy commanding officer of Allaipiddy during the meeting. He allegedly shouted at Fr. Brown saying that he had helped the LTTE to dig bunkers. However, Fr. Brown told Fr. J.J.Bernard OMI, the director of the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, that they had dug bunkers in order to protect themselves from the shelling and bombing of the church premises. Allaipiddy is also known for the massacre of 9 persons that took place on 13 May 2006.
Meanwhile, a complaint has been lodged with Kayts police and Human Rights Commission regarding disappearance of Fr. Jim Brown and Mr. W.V. Vimalathas. The Bishop of Jaffna and the Human Rights Commission have then contacted the Navy Commanders of the North, Admiral Ranaweera and Colonel L.C. Perera, who did not take any action but merely said that they do not know anything about the incident. The Church of Jaffna has also launched an urgent appeal: the government must intervene to discover the whereabouts of Fr Brown and Mr. W.V. Vimalathas. They urged the international community to pressurize the Sri Lankan government to attend to this incident immediately, act in time and save these innocent victims. Sedec, the national Caritas, has also informed the president of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapakse, of the incident but still await a reply.
This case is not an isolated case in Sri Lanka which has one of the highest rates in the world of unsolved cases of disappearances. The AHRC is also concerned the fact that Fr. Brown went missing after being accused of supporting the LTTE by the Navy commanders in the region. The Sri Lankan government must take serious action to locate the whereabouts of the two victims and ensure their safe return to their homes. It also must investigate to find out actual circumstances of the incident and whether Navy personnel are involved in their disappearances.
Please write to the relevant authorities listed below and urge them to act immediately to find the whereabouts of Fr. Brown and Mr. W.V. Vimalathas and ensure their safety.
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SRI LANKA: One Catholic priest and a man disappear
Name of the victims:
1. Fr. Thiruchchelvan Nihal Jim Brown, aged 34, a Catholic parish priest of Allaipiddy, born on 4 June 1972
2. Mr. Wenceslaus Vinces Vimalathas, born on 1967, father of five children
Date of disappearance: 20 August 2006
Place where last seen: at around 2:10pm on August 20 at a Navy checkpoint situated at the entrance to Allaipiddy
I am deeply concerned by disappearances of Fr. Thiruchchelvan Nihal Jim Brown and Mr. Wenceslaus Vinces Vimalathas. They have been last seen at around 2:10pm on 20 August 2006 at a Navy checkpoint situated at the entrance to Allaipiddy and have been missing since then.
According to the observations of Fr. Peter Thurairatnam, who was the last person seeing the two victims at the Navy checkpoint at the entrance to Allaipiddy, Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) personnel showed an abnormal reaction when Fr. Brown said that he would go Allaipiddy, where he was newly appointed as parish priest in July. It was the last time he was last seen before his disappearance. The SLN personnel at the checkpoint later reportedly claimed that Fr. Jim Brown with Mr. W.V. Vimalathas went to Allaipiddy but gave different versions about his departure.
I am also gravely concerned the fact that prior to his disappearance, Fr. Jim Brown was scolded by the Navy commanding officer of Allaipiddy who accused him of helping the LTTE to dig bunkers during the meeting that was held after the August 12 crossfire between the security forces and the LTTE in that area. Over 20 people were killed in Allaipiddy due to crossfire and on August 13, Fr. Jim Brown took about 800 villagers to St. Marys Church in neighboring Kayts, literally begging the Navy troops on his knees to be allowed to go there. Fr. Brown reportedly told a fellow priest that they dug bunkers in order to save their lives from the shelling and bombing of the church premises.
I am also informed that no serious action has been taken by the Sri Lankan government authorities to locate whereabouts of the two victims despite complaints to Kayts police and Human Rights Commission. Even though the Bishop of Jaffna and the Human Rights Commission contacted the Navy Commanders of North, Admiral Ranaweera and Colonel L.C. Perera, instead of taking action on the case, they simply said that they did not know anything about the incident. Sedec, the national Caritas, has also informed the Sri Lankan President, Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse of the incident. However, there has yet been no response from his officer.
Under the circumstances, I strongly urge you to take immediate and serous action to find the whereabouts of Fr. Jim Brown and Mr. W.V. Vimalathas and ensure their safe return to their homes. I also urge you to find out actual circumstances of the incident and whether Navy personnel are involved in their disappearances. In fact, this case is not an isolated case in Sri Lanka which has one of the highest rates in the world of unsolved cases of people who have gone missing. The Sri Lankan government must enforce a strong policy to reduce alarming rate of forced disappearances in the country.
SEND YOUR LETTER TO:
1. Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse
Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka
C/- Office of the President
150, Galle Road
Fax: +94 11 2472100 / +94 11 2446657
2. Mr. Ratnasiri Wickremanayake
Galle Road, Colombo 03
Tel: +94 11 2 575317-8 or 370 737-8
Fax: +94 11 2 575454
3. Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa
Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order
15/5, Baladaksha Mawatha,
Tel: 94-11 2 430860-9, 430878-9 or 435879 (for the secretary)
Fax: 94 11 2 446300 or 421529
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
4. Mr. K. C. Kamalasabesan
Attorney General's Department
Fax: +94 11 2 436421
5. Mr. Chandra Fernando
Inspector General of Police
Fax: +94 11 2 440440/327877
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka
No. 36, Kynsey Road
Tel: +94 11 2 694 925 / 673 806
Fax: +94 11 2 694 924 / 696 470
7. Mr. Stephen J. Toope
UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
Attn: Tanya Smith
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: + 41 22 917 9176
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (ATTN: WORKING GROUP EXTRAJUDICIAL EXECUTIONS)
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)