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Daily disappearances and killings in Sri Lanka

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The Law & Society Trust, a FORUM-ASIA member in Sri Lanka, in collaboration with other organisations, released a report on 31 October on disappearances and killings in the country. It revealed that, in the first eight months of this year, five people disappeared or were killed in Sri Lanka on a daily basis.
(Bangkok, 7 November 2007) The Law & Society Trust, a FORUM-ASIA member in Sri Lanka, in collaboration with other organisations, released a working document on 31 October 2007 on human rights violations in the country. The document revealed that 662 people were killed and 540 were disappeared from 1 January to 31 August 2007. The total amount of the victims is 1212, meaning there are “roughly five victims per day”.

Approximately 22% of all the reported disappearances in the period are young, male Tamils in Jaffna. Although Tamils are 16% of the whole population, 78% of the killed and 84% of the disappeared are Tamil. Young people often become victims, too: 45% of the killed and about 60% of the disappeared are 30 years or younger. It also pointed that amongst the reported victims there were:

  • 14 humanitarian workers and religious leaders killed
  • 9 humanitarian workers disappeared
  • 3 media personnel killed
  • 5 media personnel disappeared
  • 25 children killed
  • 43 children disappeared

The complete version of the document, with names, locations of incidents and other data, has been submitted to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (the Commission) and other governmental offices working on human rights issues in the country. Copies have been sent also to relevant UN bodies.

The organisations issued a press release on 31 October with shorter version of the document, as some of their “local partners did not wish to be named to ensure that they remain free to document violations”. It also points out that this is “the result of work done in a difficult, hostile and dangerous environment, with concerns for the physical safety of human rights defenders involved” and not an “exhaustive document”.

All the information of the document was collected by direct reporting of incidents by witnesses or victims’ family members to organisations and monitoring of media (English, Sinhala and Tamil). To ensure the facts, the organisations also cross-checked the findings through other local and regional organisations.

This is the second time that the Law & Society Trust and other organisations presented data on human rights violations of the country to the Commission, which acknowledged receipt of the first one. But the press release said, “To this date, we are not aware of progress made on any of the actions taken on any of the cases”. It also highlighted that despite apprehensions about the previous document expressed by the government and requests for additional information on errors or returns on any persons reported as disappeared, the government acted only on less than ten out of 943 cases reported in the previous document.
The press release expressed their hope that the Commission “give priority and focus on examining the adequacy and propriety of the investigations already conducted into these incidents, especially in the absence of credible reporting and an acknowledgement of these killings and disappearances by the government and other statutory bodies with a mandate for human rights protection in the country”. It also urged the Commission to “lead to identification of perpetrators and prosecution” and “directly address the prevailing culture of impunity”.