V. Enforced Disappearances and Abductions

This chapter presents an overview of enforced disappearances and abductions and a selection of documented cases. In the coming months Human Rights Watch will publish a detailed report on “disappearances” with detailed analysis and case studies.

International law defines an enforced disappearance as

the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty committed by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.80

Such acts committed without the involvement of the state, such as by the LTTE or other armed groups acting alone, are considered abductions.

Sri Lanka has a long history of enforced disappearances. During the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) insurgencies of 1971 and 1988-1989, thousands of Sri Lankans, mainly Sinhalese youths, “disappeared” and were known to have been killed or were never heard from again. In 1996, after the security forces took over Jaffna from LTTE control, more than 500 Tamil youths “disappeared” and were believed killed.81

Since its establishment in 1980, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has received over 13,000 cases from Sri Lanka.82 As of March 2007, the working group had 5,749 outstanding cases.83

In the mid-1990s the government established four different commissions to investigate enforced disappearances. In total they recorded 27,000 complaints and issued findings on 18,000 “disappearance” cases. The government issued over 15,000 death certificates and provided more than 12,000 families with compensation, but commission findings led to very few prosecutions, and there were only a handful of convictions of low-ranking officers. The state accepted some of the commissions’ recommendations, including the establishment of a special unit for “disappearances” in the police and prosecutor’s office and a legal mechanism for issuing families of victims with death certificates and compensation.

At the same time, impunity for enforced disappearances did not stop, as security officials, including commanders, remained largely unaccountable for the massive crimes of the past.

Over the past two years, enforced disappearances and abductions have returned with disturbing regularity to Sri Lanka. The overwhelming majority of victims are Tamils, although some Sinhalese and Muslims have also been targeted. Since May-June 2007, abductions of businessmen from the Muslim community for ransom have been on the rise. Reporting of these abductions to the police or other agencies remains low, largely due to fear and because family members try to secure release by paying ransom.

The precise number of enforced disappearances and abductions since the resumption of major hostilities remains unknown, but available data suggests it is extremely high. The national Human Rights Commission recorded roughly 1,000 cases in 2006, plus nearly 100 abductions and “disappearances” in the first two months of 2007.84 A government commission established in September 2006 to investigate “disappearances” said in June 2007 that 2,020 people were abducted or disappeared between September 14, 2006, and February 25, 2007 (see also below).85

The Civil Monitoring Commission, founded in November 2006 by four opposition members of parliament, has recorded details of 130 cases, 47 of them in the capital, as of April 11, 2007.86 The organization says this number reflects a small portion of the total.87

During research in February and June 2007, Human Rights Watch documented the cases of 109 people who had been disappeared or were abducted in 2006 or 2007. These included cases from Colombo, Jaffna, Vavuniya, Mannar, Trincomalee, and Batticaloa.

The majority of “disappearances” appear to be perpetrated by the Sri Lanka security forces. In these cases the military, alone or in cooperation with paramilitary groups such as the Tamil political party Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) or the Karuna group, target young Tamils suspected of directly or indirectly supporting the LTTE. The clearest examples come from Jaffna, where abductions take place in areas of strict military control, sometimes at night, when a curfew is in effect (see below).

The fate of many individuals taken by the security forces and paramilitary groups remains unknown. Some of them are likely to be kept in unacknowledged detention under the Emergency Regulations reimposed in 2006, which allow the authorities to hold detainees for up to 12 months without charge (see Chapter VII, “Emergency Regulations”). Many of these individuals, however, are feared dead, especially in Jaffna, where the military has a powerful presence and LTTE activity is high. Local human rights groups believe that the security forces “disappear” and then immediately summarily execute individuals for their suspected involvement in the LTTE, or sometimes detain and torture them first at illegal detention facilities, such as military and navy bases and camps.

The LTTE is also clearly responsible for a number of abductions. In most cases the Tigers openly execute their rivals or alleged government supporters and informers to ensure the deterrent effect on the population. But it is also possible that relatives are often too terrified to report abductions perpetrated by the LTTE, fearing further retaliation. At the same time, the LTTE is notorious for abducting children, young men and women for training and recruitment purposes.88


According to a credible non-governmental organization that tracks disappearances, on the Jaffna peninsula alone, 805 persons were reported missing between December 2005 and April. As of May 1, 2007, 564 of these persons were still missing.89

Human Rights Watch also inspected a report from the Government Agent (GA) of Jaffna, which had statistics from April to December 2006. During that time, the GA registered 354 missing persons.90

Human Rights Watch visited Jaffna in February 2007 and interviewed the families of 37 persons who had been “disappeared” over the previous year. Of these, in 21 cases the evidence strongly suggested the involvement of government security forces. In two cases the families strongly believed that the perpetrators were members of the EPDP (based on their accents, appearance, and cars leaving in the direction of EPDP camps). In one case involving three people, the families believed the perpetrator was the LTTE.

In one illustrative case documented by Human Rights Watch, the military “disappeared” two men, ages 25 and 23, in front of their wives on December 8, 2006. That morning the military conducted a large-scale cordon and search operation in several villages in Valvettiturai area, including Samarabaachu, Naachchimaar, Navindil, Ilainthaykadu, and Maavadi. According to witnesses, the group conducting the searches consisted of personnel from Point Pedro camp, Polikandy camp, VVT camp, Udupiddy camp, and another camp locally known as “Camp David.”

The wife of the 25-year-old told Human Rights Watch that in the morning four military personnel searched their house and checked the ID cards of the family members. They returned her card, but took her husband’s with them and told him to come later that day to a playground in Navindil to collect it.

The man’s wife took their two children and accompanied her husband to Navindil. She said there were almost 2,000 people at the playground—men who came to collect their IDs, and their families. The military were calling people by name, asking some questions, and returning their ID cards. She said that they also called her husband, checked his documents again, and let him go. However, he never left the playground. The wife explained,

He got his card back, and was making his way through the crowd. There were two vehicles parked there, and as he was passing in between them, several military personnel jumped off the vehicle, picked him up, and pushed him aside. It all happened in front of my eyes—I stood with the kids some 10 meters away. I ran there, screaming, ‘Where are you taking him? Please, let him go!’

In response, one of the soldiers unfastened a strap from his gun, and lashed me, saying, ‘Go away, he is not here; if you lost your husband, go and ask the police.’ I kept crying, asking them to either release him or take me and the kids as well, because we wouldn’t survive without him anyway. One of the soldiers, moved by my tears, got inside the vehicle and I heard him asking the others to take pity on me and the kids, but he [the soldier] never came back.91

The 23-year-old also had his ID card confiscated on the morning of December 8, in his home village of Naachchimaar. He also came to the Navindil playground to pick up his card. His wife told Human Rights Watch that she came there some time later and although she had to wait behind the fence, she saw her husband, who waved to her. She said that the military checked his ID again, and returned the card, allowing him to leave. However, as he was leaving the playground two soldiers picked him up and put him into one of their Powell vehicles. The man’s wife said she then immediately ran to the vehicle, and, along with the wife of the 25-year-old, started begging the military to release the men. She said that the soldiers kept pushing the women away, saying they would hit them if they dared to come closer.

The women said that some 15 minutes after their husbands had been put into the Powell, the vehicles swiftly left the playground, and other personnel followed them. The two women told Human Rights Watch that they managed to write down the number plates of the two Powell vehicles, 40041-14 and 40032-14.

The wives of the two men immediately filed a complaint at the Point Pedro police station located inside the Point Pedro military camp. The wife of the 23-year-old said,

We gave them the vehicle numbers we wrote down, but they said, ‘e have hundreds of vehicles with the same numbers, so it is childish of you to expect us to find them by these numbers.’Next day, when we came back, we saw both vehicles leaving the camp and coming back. We told the policeman, and also talked to a female military officer who wrote something down. Then a commander—he had stars on his epaulets and a red band on his arm—came. He talked to us and to the female officer, but never returned to us. They said they did not know anything and sent us to the Valvettiturai police station.92

The Valvettiturai police registered the complaint, but advised the women to search for their men in the forest; they mentioned that previously a man taken away by the military had been dumped in the forest, blindfolded, yet alive. The families searched but failed to find their husbands there.

The two wives told Human Rights Watch that they kept visiting Point Pedro and Polikandy military camps, and that on December 25 the military from the Polikandy camp came to verify the places of residence of the two men with their village leaders. The military, however, kept denying having any knowledge of the men’s whereabouts. The women also reported the “disappearances” to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the HRC, and the SLMM. The ICRC inquired with the military, the women said, but received the same response.

At this writing, the fate and whereabouts of the two men remain unknown.

Perhaps the best known case from the Jaffna peninsula is that of Reverend Fr. Thiruchchelvan Nihal Jim Brown, a parish priest in the village of Allaipiddy on Kayts Island, who went missing with another man, Wenceslaus Vinces Vimalathas, on August 20, 2006. The two men left Allaipiddy in the early afternoon for the nearby village of Mandaithivu, but the Sri Lankan military did not allow them to enter. On the way back to Allaipiddy they were stopped at a navy checkpoint, and they have not been seen again.

Inquiries into the fate and whereabouts of the two men proved futile. The navy denied having detained them, and the investigation into the “disappearance” has so far produced no results.

Father Jim Brown was known to have helped many civilians to move from Allaipiddy to the town of Kayts after fighting in the area between the Sri Lankan Navy and the LTTE. In fighting a week before his “disappearance,” on August 13, 2006, at least 54 civilians were injured and 15 lost their lives.

Human Rights Watch asked the Sri Lankan government about the army’s authority to arrest or detain civilians in Jaffna, as well as the number of persons the army is detaining in its camps. The government replied that the army can arrest individuals under regulation 18 of the Emergency Regulations, and it is required to hand over to the police all arrested persons within 24 hours. 93


Since August 2006 abductions and “disappearances” have also become a widespread phenomenon in the capital. Human Rights Watch interviewed 26 families of persons missing from Colombo. In seven of the cases, testimonies of the family implicate police and other security forces in the “disappearances.”

In one case, for example, the wife of a 21-year-old Tamil man said she saw the police take her husband on August 23, 2006. According to the woman, she and her husband had come to the capital from Trincomalee on June 26 so that he could obtain a visa to work abroad. They stayed at a lodge in the 14th district of Colombo while he was waiting for the visa to come through. In the early morning of August 23 the police knocked on their lodge door. She explained what happened next:

It was 12:30 a.m. We were all sleeping. The police came in uniform and we were all there. They asked for our ID cards. When they asked I saw there were two boys taken from the room next door. They threw my card away and grabbed my husband’s card, and they took him.94

The wife went to the Armor Street police station on Kotehena Road the next morning but the police refused to take her complaint. She searched at other police stations in the city and returned to the Armor Street station that evening at 6 p.m., she said. This time, the police took her complaint and provided a receipt, which Human Rights Watch viewed.

According to the wife, two men in civilian clothes subsequently came to the lodge and told the wife that her husband would be released in one week, and that they would send him by bus or train to Trincomalee. As of March 4, when we interviewed her, her husband had not returned.

Batticaloa, Trincomalee, and Ampara

In the eastern districts of Batticaloa, Trincomalee, and Ampara, the Karuna group has committed hundreds of abductions with the complicity of Sri Lankan security forces. The section below and Chapter IX, “Karuna Group and State Complicity,” document abductions by that group. Human Rights Watch received credible reports from Batticaloa residents and international aid groups who said the Karuna group was helping government security forces screen displaced persons fleeing into government-controlled territory, identifying those suspected of supporting the LTTE.

Responsibility in other cases is unclear. In one recent case documented by Sri Lankan organizations, unknown assailants abducted Alampalan Sivasubramanium, the head of Lingapuram village in Trincomalee district. Sivasubramanium had been a vocal advocate for the needs of the displaced. It is not known who abducted him.95

One of the most prominent “disappearance” cases in the east is of Professor Sivasubramaniam Raveendranath, 56, vice chancellor at Eastern University in Batticaloa, who went missing from a High Security Zone in Colombo on December 15, 2006. The case began with the abduction in Batticaloa by an unknown armed group on September 20, 2006, of Dr. Bala Sugamar, dean of the arts faculty at Eastern University. The group said, for reasons that remain unclear, they would release Dr. Sugamar if Prof. Raveendranath resigned.

Professor S. Raveendranath, 56, vice chancellor at Eastern University in Batticaloa, went missing from a High Security Zone in Colombo on December 15, 2006. © 2006 courtesy of the Raveendranath family

According to Prof. Raveendranath’s family, the professor and his immediate relatives left Batticaloa for Colombo on the night of October 1. The next day, he submitted his resignation. Dr. Sugama was released 11 days later.

Prof. Raveendranath stayed in Colombo, where he worked for the university grants commission. He reported receiving death threats on his cell phone. “The people who threatened him said they would punish him and kill him if he didn’t stop working,” his son-in-law told Human Rights Watch.96

On December 15, Prof. Raveendranath attended a science conference near the BMICH conference hall in Colombo, which is in a High Security Zone with a large presence of military and police. The family expected him back for lunch but he never arrived. His wife tried his cell phone several times but it was turned off. The family filed a police report with the Dehiwala police that same day. They also submitted the case to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, which sent it under the urgent action procedure to the Sri Lankan government on January 9, 2007.97 At this writing, Prof. Raveendranath was still missing.

Karuna group

Over the past two years the Karuna group has been implicated in numerous abductions resulting in summary killings. Most of the victims are alleged supporters of the LTTE. The group also has engaged in wide-scale abductions of young men and boys for use as soldiers (see Chapter IX, “Karuna Group and State Complicity”).

The Karuna group has also engaged in kidnappings for ransom of wealthy, predominantly Tamil, businessmen to raise money. Such kidnappings, which one journalist called an “industry,” have happened in Colombo and other towns, most recently Vavuniya.98 A few businessmen have been killed, apparently because they or their families refused or were unable to pay, or perhaps as a message to others that they should comply. According to the Civil Monitoring Commission, out of 78 cases of reported abductions of Tamil businesses in Colombo in late 2006-early 2007, 12 abductees have been murdered, 15 released after the ransom had been paid, and 51 are still missing.99 Media reports have suggested that security forces were implicated in these abductions, either directly facilitating them or providing a cover and not taking any action against them.100

Human Rights Watch interviewed a Colombo Tamil businessman who had been abducted by Tamils he believed to be from the Karuna group but had been released after he paid a ransom. According to the man, a jeweler who wished to remain anonymous, he started getting threatening phone calls in April 2006, sometimes from people who said they were from the Karuna group. They demanded that he transfer one million rupees ($US 8,946) into a bank account.101 About one month after the first call, he was walking from his shop in Colombo when a group of men forced him to get into a white van. He explained,

At 5:30 p.m. I went to my car. There’s a bar between my car and my shop. There were two men, ages between 35 and 40. When they saw me they said, ‘We’re from CID [Criminal Investigation Division of the police]. Please show us your ID.’ I gave it. They spoke Tamil but with a Batticaloa accent. They said, ‘Our boss is there, so show him your ID.’ I didn’t ask for theirs. When I went there, immediately a white van came about 20 meters in front of my car. As soon as I got there, the sliding door of the van opened and some people inside pulled me in. I was shocked and I realized that I was trapped by some abductors. They said, ‘Don’t panic or we’ll shoot you.’ Immediately they put a white cloth over my eyes…. I don’t know exactly but more than five people were in the van.

According to the man, the van drove for about four hours, stopping occasionally. The man thought they were stopping at checkpoints, because the person in the front said, “Hello, how are you?” in Sinhala. Eventually they put him in a room and, after 10 minutes, a man arrived. He said, “We had already instructed you to pay and you did not, so that is why we abducted you. If you don’t pay we’ll kill you and even your family won’t be able to see the body because we’ll dump it in the jungle.”

The next day the man’s captors made him call his brother. They told the brother that he had to pay money to save the man’s life. The following day they put the man back into a vehicle and drove him for about three hours. They let him out at a bus stop and told him he could go home, but they warned him not to tell anyone. The man realized then that his brother had paid, although he learned later that he had not paid the full one million rupees demanded.

“They said, ‘Do not convey this information to anyone: the media, the police or human rights groups,’” the man said. “’We have connections at each organization, so we will not allow you to live.’”

He believes the abductors were members of the Karuna group because they spoke Tamil with a Batticaloa accent (few police or military personnel speak Tamil without a Sinhala accent), and because they had no trouble going through what he believes were government checkpoints.

According to the man, who is active in Colombo’s Tamil business community, the Karuna group has extorted money from roughly 70 Tamil businessmen in Colombo, many of them with businesses on Sea Street. The Jewelers Business Association had met President Rajapaksa to complain, he said.

As in the case of the Colombo jeweler, abductions for ranson in Vavuniya are also part of a broader phenomenon of demanding money with menaces. Human Rights Watch interviewed one couple, both lawyers, from Vavuniya who fled the town after getting demands for money from individuals who identified themselves as from the Karuna group.102 One of the people who threatened the couple identified himself as Seelan, the couple said. According to the couple, who worked closely with the town’s business community, the Karuna group is believed to have abducted and killed three local businessmen who refused to pay. The first was a private teacher named Kamal Chandran, who ran a private tutoring company in town. Then N. Gunaratnam, who ran the Kapilan Transport bus company, with a route between Vavuniya and Colombo, was targeted. He apparently gave money but then informed the police. Last was S.K. Senthilnathan, who owned Elephant Soda Distribution Co. and City Agency in town.103

Most often the person demanding money on the phone used one of four names, the couple said: Robert, Seelan, Elial, or Benthan. The couple provided Human Rights Watch with the telephone numbers of the cell phones on which they received calls from these individuals.104 Some of these numbers matched numbers given by two other Tamils from Vavuniya, who also said they had been contacted by men from the Karuna group who demanded money.

On February 28, 2007, the Vavuniya Bar Association decided to boycott court proceedings due to threats from the Karuna group. The association said that a person calling himself Seelan, who identified himself as from the Karuna group, had been threatening some members of the Bar, demanding large sums of money. “This Bar has not experienced any such demand by any militant group in the past. This demand has caused anxiety in the minds of the members of the Bar, affecting their professional performance. The Bar Association of Vavuniya has brought this matter to the notice of the High Court Judge and the District Judge, Vavuniya,” the Vavuniya Bar said.105

Karuna group spokesman Azad Maulana said the group had a political officer named Seelan in the east, but he was not involved in any threats or intimidation. “Do you think someone will call and give his name while making threats,” Maulana said “Someone is obviously using Seelan’s name and making threats. We respect the legal profession."106

The government’s response

In late 2006 and early 2007 the Sri Lankan government began to react to the growing chorus of complaints about abductions and “disappearances” from within Sri Lanka and abroad. On the one hand, the government adamantly denied responsibility for the spree of “disappearances,” and dismissed human rights groups and journalists as the disseminators of “LTTE propaganda.”107 On the other hand, the authorities made numerous pledges to investigate and stop the abuses. To date, however, the steps have failed to yield tangible results.

On September 15, 2006, the president’s office announced the creation of a special police unit to investigate abductions, “disappearances,” and ransom demands.108 A few days later the president announced the creation of a one-man commission consisting of former judge Mahanama Tillekeratne to look at abductions and enforced disappearances across the country. Judge Tillekeratne submitted his interim reports to the president on December 12, 2006 and March 23, 2007.  The government has not made either report public.

In a media briefing on June 28, 2007 Judge Tillekeratne said that 430 civilians had been killed between September 14, 2006, and February 25, 2007, almost all of them Tamil. Many of the victims were shot through the head with their hands tied behind their backs, he said.109 In addition to the deaths, 2,020 people were abducted or “disappeared” during those five months, he said (1,713 “disappeared” and 307 abducted). An estimated 1,134 were later found alive (1.002 of the “disappeared” and 132 of the abducted) but the fate of the rest remains unknown.

Judge Tillekeratne said that he recommended the government take strong action against policemen who had failed to investigate complaints of abductions and “disappearances.” According to evidence before the commission, he said, the police had not recorded some complaints even after complainants had come to the police station multiple times.110

The commission’s media statements are quite strong but it remains unclear whether the government will make any details of its findings public, or act on its recommendations. Human Rights Watch asked the government whether it would make public any of the commission’s reports, but the government did not reply to this question.

As public criticism of the rising abductions mounted, on March 6, 2007, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Victor Perera announced that the police had arrested a “large number” of police officers and soldiers, including deserters, among 433 people arrested on charges of abduction and extortion since September 2006.  “There is a lot of attention by foreign organizations on the human rights situation here and these killings and abductions cause big problems for the government internationally,” he said.111

The government has yet to provide any details of those arrests, let alone whether those arrested face prosecution. On June 18 Human Rights Watch asked the government how many soldiers and police had been arrested, and on what charges. The government replied that “this information is being tabulated by the police, which maintains detailed records of persons arrested and places of detention.”112 Why the government could not provide any information on this issue remains unclear.

A government statement two days after IGP Perera’s announcement took issue with security forces’ involvement in the abductions, effectively raising questions about the authenticity of the 433 arrests. The government’s peace secretariat rejected all allegations and accusations against the government for complicity in abductions and “disappearances” as “unfounded.” It said that police investigations “substantiate the fact that neither the Security Forces, nor the Police, have been involved, directly or indirectly, in the alleged abductions and disappearances” and led “to the inescapable conclusion that much of the accusations were stage managed for mere propaganda purposes.” The statement also dismissed allegations of “disappearances” as coming from people with ulterior motives:

It is evident that many of the [disappearance] cases reported below were clearly and intentionally manipulated, with the ulterior motive of gaining some personal advantage. This was in some instances to gain entry to a foreign land. In other instances, it was to avoid a Customs penalty or a consequence of not adhering to a Court order. Other cases reveal the negligence on the part of those who were allegedly abducted, of not informing their parents or guardians about their fate or whereabouts. Some others also show that underworld criminal gangs have been conveniently mistaken to be armed groups consisting of SL Army and Police personnel.113

Three days later, on March 11, the president’s office shifted the blame for abductions and “disappearances” back on the police. “President Rajapaksa expected responsible intervention by the police to stem a wave of killings, abductions and extortion rackets, some of which have been linked to police and troops,” the president’s office said in a statement. “The President expects a more responsible intervention from the police to prevent the current wave of crime, the violence, extortion, human rights violations.”114 (For the president’s April 2007 recirculation of presidential directives on the arrest and detention of individuals, partly a response to “disappearances” as well as to spiraling detentions, see Chapter VII, “Emergency Regulations.”)

On June 18 Human Rights Watch asked the government how many people the police had arrested over the previous year on charges of kidnapping or other involvement in abductions or enforced disappearances, and the current status of those cases. The government replied that this information was being tabulated by the police.115 Again, the government should be able to provide at least some information on this issue.

Local and international organizations have repeatedly criticized the ineffectiveness of Sri Lanka’s existing national mechanisms and the government’s failure to address the problem of “disappearances.” The Asian Human Rights Commission, for example, noted in September 2006 that “within Sri Lanka at the moment there is no government authority with the capacity to efficiently investigate the disappearances,” and that “the assurance of some state authorities to the effect that if soldiers are found to be guilty of such acts they would be punished is a mere rhetorical gesture in the face of heavy criticism from local and international sources.”116

In April 2007 a group of relatives of the “disappeared” supported by the Civil Monitoring Commission petitioned the government, expressing their despair at the government’s unwillingness to investigate “disappearances.” The petition said,

We are saddened that the present government, headed by a President who had been at the forefront of the struggle against disappearances many years ago along with the family members of the disappeared, has chosen to dismiss the disappearance of our loved ones as something that is not worthy of local and international attention. We are particularly pained at the inability or unwillingness of the government to adequately investigate this situation and their rejection of our efforts and those of local and international groups trying to help us.

Although the government says it is taking steps to address this situation through the Tillekeratne Commission and the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) and the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) etc., none of these mechanisms have helped to bring back our loved ones and to know the fates of them. Setting up of these two commissions and group did not prevent disappearances even after they have been set up.117

The government’s lack of commitment to address “disappearances” was also evident in its continued failure to cooperate with international mechanisms. For example, the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances sent a request in October 2006 to visit Sri Lanka in early 2007, but the government responded that it would not be possible for the visit to take place at that time.118

On June 27 the government took another step to address the growing concern about “disappearances,” announcing the creation of a special center under the direction of President Rajapaksa for gathering information on abductions in and around Colombo.119 It remains unclear how this center will function, and whether it will help end the rash of abductions and “disappearances” that continue to occur.

In response to queries from Human Rights Watch, the government said on July 12 that the Disappearance Investigation Unit (DIU) of the Sri Lanka police is mandated to investigate cases of enforced disappearance. The unit is under the purview of the police deputy inspector general in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), currently D.W. Prathapasingha. The CID also conducts a few investigations into “disappearances,” the government said.120

80 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, E/CN.4/2005/WG.22/WP.1/Rev.4 (2005), art. 2. Sri Lanka is not a signatory to the convention, which has yet to enter into force.

81 D.B.S. Jeyaraj, “An Overview of the ‘Enforced Disappearances’ Phenomenon,” Transcurrents, April 13, 2007, (accessed May 15, 2007).

82 “ICJ Urges Sri Lanka to Ratify Convention against Enforced Disappearances,” International Commission of Jurists press release, January 24, 2007, (accessed May 29, 2007).

83 Interactive dialogue at the Human Rights Council with the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, March 21, 2007.

84 Gardner, “Abductions, Disappearances Haunt Sri Lanka’s Civil War,” and “Sri Lanka Police, Soldiers Arrested over Abductions,” Reuters.

85 “US Concerned about Disappeared,” BBC

86 List of the Civil Monitoring Committee, April 11, 2007, on file with Human Rights Watch.

87 Human Rights Watch interview with Mano Ganesan, member of the Civil Monitoring Commission, Colombo, March 6, 2007.

88 See Human Rights Watch, Living in Fear.

89 For security reasons the NGO did not want to be identified. However, details of the 805 cases—names, ages, dates and locations of the incidents, and brief descriptions—are on file with Human Rights Watch.

90 In the same period, according to the Government Agent’s report, 381 were killed and 204 were injured.

91 Human Rights Watch interview with wife of “disappeared” 25-year-old man, Jaffna, February 28, 2007.

92 Human Rights Watch interview with wife of “disappeared” 23-year-old man, Jaffna, February 28, 2007.

93 Sri Lankan government response to Human Rights Watch, July 12, 2007.

94 Human Rights Watch interview with wife of “disappeared” 21-year-old man, Colombo, March 4, 2007.

95 Centre for Policy Alternatives and International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, “Tricomalee Fact-Finding Mission,” April 2007, (accessed May 30, 2007).

96 Human Rights Watch interview with M. Malaravan, Colombo, March 4, 2007.

97 Letter of receipt from the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, reference number G/SO 217/1 Sri Lanka, March 26, 2007.

98 Jeyaraj, “An Overview of the ‘Enforced Disappearances’ Phenomenon,” Transcurrents.

99 Figures cited in “Abductions spread to Wellawaya,” LeN, April 10, 2007. Representatives of the Civil Monitoring Commission told Human Rights Watch that abduction for ransom is one the most underreported categories of cases, as families who manage to secure the release of their relatives are very reluctant to report even to human rights groups, fearing further prosecution. Human Rights Watch interview with Mano Ganesan, Colombo, February 20, 2007.

100 D.B.S. Jeyaraj, “Dear Ones of ‘Disappeared’ in depths of Despair,” Transcurrents, April 12, 2007, (accessed April 15, 2007).

101 Human Rights Watch interview with formerly abducted Tamil businessman, Colombo, October 2006.

102 Human Rights Watch interview with couple from Vavuniya, Colombo, March 4, 2007.

103 According to Tamilnet, Senthilnathan was a senior member of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress. “Senthilnathan Shot and Killed in Vavuniya,” Tamilnet, April 26, 2007, (accessed June 28, 2007).

104 Human Rights Watch interview with couple from Vavuniya, Colombo, March 4, 2007.

105 Easwaran Rutnam, “Vavuniya Bar Alleges Threat by Karuna Faction,” Daily Mirror, March 2, 2007, (accessed June 28, 2007).

106 Ibid.

107 For example, in a March 2007 press interview Human Rights and Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe responded to accusations of abductions by dismissing it as the LTTE’s “propaganda strategy” used to “paint a bleak picture internationally to bring pressure on the government so that our resolve will be weakened.” See “You cannot expect everything to be normal,” The Nation (Colombo), March 18, 2007.

108 “Special Police Unit to Probe Incidents of Killing,” Office of the President media release, September 15, 2006, (accessed May 15, 2007).

109 “US Concerned about Disappeared,” BBC, and Official website of the Government of Sri Lanka, “Majority of ‘Disappeared’ Had Returned—Commissioner,” June 29, 2007, (accessed July 27, 2007)

110 Susistha R. Fernando, “Majority of ‘Abductees’ Found to Have Returned,” Daily Mirror (Colombo), June 29, 2007.

111 “Sri Lankan Police, Troops Involved in Abductions: Police Chief,” Agence France-Presse, March 6, 2007. “Sri Lanka Police, Soldiers Arrested over Abductions,” Reuters, March 6, 2007.

112 Sri Lankan government response to Human Rights Watch, July 12, 2007.

113 SCOPP, “Baseless Allegations of Abductions and Disappearances.”

114 “Sri Lanka President blasts police dept for handling of abductions and killings,” ColomboPage, March 11, 2007, (accessed May 15, 2007).

115 Sri Lankan government response to Human Rights Watch, July 12, 2007.

116 “Sri Lanka: White vans without number plates; the symbol of disappearances reappear,” statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission, AS-213-2006, September 13, 2006, (accessed April 17, 2006).

117 Civil Monitoring Commission, “Petition to Help Find our Disappeared Family Members and Friends in Sri Lanka,” April 9, 2007.

118 Interactive dialogue at the Human Rights Council with the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, March 21, 2007.

119 “Media is Commended for highlighting HR violations; government sets up a special center to avert abductions,” Ministry of Defence news release, June 28, 2007, (accessed June 28, 2007).

120 Sri Lankan government response to Human Rights Watch, July 12, 2007.