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AFAD’s Open letter to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse on the disappearance of human rights defenders Weeraraja and Muruganandan

December 22, 2011 Leave a comment

20 December 2011

 

OPEN LETTER

HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT MAHINDA RAJAPAKSE

Office of the President,

Temple Trees, 150, Galle Road,

Colombo 3, Sri Lanka

 

His Excellency President Rajapakse,

The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) recently received reports regarding the enforced disappearance of two human rights defenders, Mr. Lalith Kumar Weeraraja and Mr. Kugan Muruganandan.

The above-mentioned persons were last seen leaving the residence of Mr. Muruganandan on Avarangal, Jaffna on a motorbike (license no NP GT 7852) on the 9th of December 2011 at 5:00 p.m. At the time they disappeared, they were organizing a press conference for the 10TH of December International Human Rights Day to project the protest action of the Movement for People’s Struggle in Colombo on 13th December 2011.

The families have not seen the two men since then.  They were unofficially informed that both human rights defenders were kept in an unidentified detention facility in Jaffna district.  By eleven in the evening of the 9th of December, the father of Mr. Weeraraja reportedly received phone calls threatening to kill Mr. Weeraraja and further stating “either you remove your son from Jaffna or we will do it for you.” The incident was lodged as a complaint under the Kosgama Police Station on the 11th of December  2011 (CIB 94/133).

Mr. Weeraraja serves as the Executive Committee member of the organization, “We Are Sri Lankans” and the Jaffna Coordinator of the Jana Aragalaya (People’s Struggle) movement while Mr. Muruganandan actively assisted Mr. Weeraraja in the conduct of his human rights work. Both defenders were campaigning against enforced disappearances, promotion of the rights of the internally displaced persons in the north and the release of political prisoners among others.

Prior to their disappearance, Mr. Weeraraja previously suffered from threats by the army and police regarding his work.

In April 2011, Mr. Weeraraja and a colleague were arrested by the Vavuniya police and threatened to be shot while putting up posters about enforced disappearances in the North.

On the 23rd of June 2011, he and another colleague were again abducted by officers of the Killinochchi army camp (Depo Junction) and were detained and interrogated in an abandoned ice-cream factory.

On the 14th of November 2011, Mr. Weeraraja with other human rights defenders suffered from severe beatings by unidentified men during a protest with the families of the disappeared in Jaffna in front of the Jaffna town bus stand. The beatings happened in front of the military, who did not intervene and stop the attack.

AFAD strongly condemns the disappearance of the Mr. Weeraraja and Mr. Muruganandan. The work of both human rights defenders’ is crucial in demanding justice for the victims of enforced disappearances of the Tamils in the North. The disappearance of Mr. Weeraraja and Mr. Muruganandan was clearly an act to suppress efforts to uncover the truth behind cases of disappearances in the past.

The Federation demands for the Rajapaksa administration to:

  • Immediately intervene and investigate the disappearance of Mr. Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Mr. Kugan Muruganandan particularly the allegations that government security forces are responsible for the act.
  • The conduct of the investigations must lead to the disclosure of the whereabouts of the victims, the release of the   victims from custody, the disclosure of the identity of the perpetrators including the grounds in which both human rights defenders were held. Specifically, the threatening phone calls received by Mr. Weeraraja’s father must be thoroughly investigated to establish leads to the whereabouts of the victims and the perpetratorsThe past harassments and threats to Mr. Weeraraja (April 2011 threats involving the posters of the disappeared,  abduction and detention on the 23rd of June 2011 by officers of the army camp in Killinochchi, and the beatings on the 14th of November during the protest action by the families of the disappeared)  must also be investigated with the erring officials sanctioned and brought before the court of law;
  • Ensure that an impartial investigation will be conducted, with the proceedings held with transparency. Information regarding the case must be made accessible to the families,  other parties concerned and the public;
  • Ensure the protection of the families of Mr. Weeraraj and Mr. Muruganandan as well as other human rights defenders intervening with and on behalf of the victims in pursuing for legal remedies.

The Federation urges the Government of Sri Lanka for the compliance to Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating “…the right to life, liberty and security of person”. The UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance has emphasized enforced disappearance as an offense to human dignity and violates “…the right to recognition as a person before the law, the right to liberty and security of the person and the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,”. The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPAPED) under Article 1 subsequently reiterated the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearance and that no circumstances can be invoked to justify enforced disappearance.

Enforced disappearance brings immense suffering both to the victim and their families. We trust that the Rajapaksa administration will recognize state obligations prescribed under the international human rights instruments particularly in ending enforced disappearance and the firm refusal to tolerate enforced disappearance.

We trust that the Government of Sri Lanka will heed the plight of the family as they demand for the truth behind the disappearance of their loved ones, Mr. Weeraraja and Mr. Muruganandan, and the prosecution of perpetrators responsible for the assault to the dignity of both human rights defenders.

We shall await the immediate intervention regarding the said case.

Thank you.

 

For the protection of human rights,

 

MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO

Secretary-General

 

MUGIYANTO

Chairperson

 

Copy furnished to:

 

Mr. Mohan Peiris

Attorney General, Attorney General’s Department,

Colombo 12, Sri Lanka

 

Ms. Chandra Ellawala

Secretary, Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka,

118, Barnes Place, Colombo 07, Sri Lanka

 

Inspector General of Police (IGP)

New Secretariat, Colombo 1, Sri Lanka

National Police Commission

3rd Floor, Rotunda Towers, 109 Galle Road,

Colombo 03, Sri Lanka

 

Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

Defence Secretary, Ministry Of Defence and Urban Development

15/5, Baladaksha Mawatha, Colombo 03, Sri Lanka

 

Ms. Kshenuka Senewiratne

Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in Geneva

Permanent Mission of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the United Nations

56 rue De Moillebeau, 5th Floor, 1211 Geneva 19, Switzerland

 

Dr. Palitha T.B.Kohona

Ambassador & Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York

Permanent Mission of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the United Nations

#630, 3rd Avenue (20th Floor), New York, NY 10017

United States America

 

Mr. Jeremy J. Sarkin

Chairperson, UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UN WGEID)

c/o OHCHR-UNOG CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

 

Emmanuel Decaux

Chairperson, UN Committee on Enforced Disappearance (CED)

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

Palais Wilson – 52, rue des Pâquis, CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland

 

Ms. Margaret Sekaggya

Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders

c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Palais Wilson

United Nations Office at Geneva

CH 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

 

Mr. Nawalage Bennet Cooray

Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Philippines

7th Floor G.C. Corporate Plaza Building, No. 150 Legaspi Street, Legaspi Village

Makati City, Philippines

AFAD Open Letter to Sri Lanka President Rajapaksa to expedite investigation on Razeek case

8 August 2011

OPEN LETTER
HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT MAHINDA RAJAPAKSE

Office of the President,
Temple Trees, 150, Galle Road,
Colombo 3, Sri Lanka

His Excellency President Rajapakse,

The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) is a regional federation of human rights organizations working directly on the issue of enforced or involuntary disappearances.

We are writing to appeal to your office the case of Mr. Pattani Razeek.

Mr. Razeek, a Managing Trustee of the Community Trust Fund (CTF) in Puttalam and Executive Committee Member of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) disappeared on February 11, 2010 while he was travelling to Polonnaruwa. He was last seen getting inside a van near the Jumma Mosque in Kaduruwela. After the incident, his family received phone calls from his mobile phone with attempts to produce huge amounts of money in exchange for Mr. Razeek’s release.

We have received reports that the remains of the internationally recognized human rights disappeared defender Mr. Pattani Razeek were exhumed in Kavathamunai, Oddamavadi, Valaichenai province on July 28, 2011 and the post mortem held on August 2, 2011 in Batticaloa. We have also heard from our partners that shops in the Puttalam town and nearby towns were shut down on August 3, 2011, with banners displayed in public places condemning the murder and calling to bring perpetrators to justice. This indicates the massive public outrage in the area against the killing of Mr. Razeek.

The Federation is saddened by the tragic end to the search for Mr. Razeek. Individuals responsible for the disappearance and killing of Mr. Razeek must be brought before the judiciary immediately.

In this light, the Federation appeals for the following urgent interventions on the case to expedite the transparent investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators of Mr. Razeek’s disappearance by:

• Questioning and arresting all persons who were in the vehicle driven by one of the suspects, Mr. Musdeen, which was the vehicle used when Mr. Razeek was abducted.

• Questioning and arresting all persons who were in the vehicle with the other suspect, Mr. Nowshaadh, who had admitted to meeting Mr. Razeek in the area on the date he was last seen.

• Questioning and arresting Mr. Irshan, senior staff of Minister Rishard Bathiudeen, who had claimed that Mr. Razeek was in custody of the Defense Ministry.

• Investigating whether Minister Rishard Bathiudeen and former CTF Trustee Mr. Mustafa Nihmath had any direct or indirect involvement in the killing and abduction of Mr. Razeek, based on public calls for citing their involvement by the family, Mosque leaders and the thousands that gathered for Mr. Razeek’s funeral on August 3, 2011.

The development on the case of Mr. Razeek has again brought before the international community the issue of enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka.

Thus, we are appealing to your office to issue an official invitation to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to visit the country again and to reinstate the state obligations by signing and ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons form Enforced Disappearance.

Such actions are in compliance with Sri Lanka’s state obligations to ensure that no citizen under any circumstance shall be subjected to enforced disappearance; no person will be deprived of liberty unless he or she is formally charged with a criminal offense. Every person has the right to truth, reparation and the right to equal protection before the law and should enjoy an environment in which he or she can be defended under the rule of law.

It is only through truth and justice that genuine and lasting reconciliation and peace can be attained.

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

(Sgd.) MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO                 (Sgd.)  MUGIYANTO
Secretary-General                                     Chairperson

Copy furnished to: 

1. Mr. Jeremy J. Sarkin
Chairperson
Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
c/o OHCHR-UNOG CH-1211 Geneva 10 Switzerland

2. Committee on Enforced Disappearance (CED) 
Human Rights Treaties Division (HRTD)
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais Wilson – 52, rue des Pâquis, CH-1201 Geneva (Switzerland)

A pdf version of the official communication can be viewed at the following link:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/61827528/AFAD-Open-Letter-to-Sri-Lanka-President-Mahinda-Rajapaksa

PDI Editor’s Response to AFAD Letter

October 29, 2010 Leave a comment

28 October 2010

Dear friends,

In view of the letter published in our Facebook and Blog disowning the letter published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI, below is response of the editor.

1. As a matter of policy and practice, letters approved for publication are edited to suit them to the Inquirer’s editorial standards and style. But the Inquirer makes sure that the principal messages of the letters are kept essentially the same.

2. For a very obvious reason and because the letter could only be accommodated on Oct. 15, we had to change the point of reference of Ms Bacalso’s Sept. 28 letter from “before” to “after” Oct. 8.

3. Ms Bacalso’s Sept. 28 letter was published on the assumption that as of Oct. 14, when the letter’s publication was set for the next day, no meeting had yet taken place between President Aquino and the desaparecidos’ kin and their supporters. Please note that Ms Bacalso did not recall her Sept. 28 letter or tell the Inquirer that, on Oct. 6, 2010, the President had met with AFAD and FIND. Neither was there any news report about such meeting that the Inquirer was aware of.

4. May we remind Inquirer readers that Inquirer expects those who would use its Letters section to air complaints to immediately update the section on any major intervening development regarding their gripes.—Ed.

From the above-mentioned response, the editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer stated that I did not withdraw the letter.  While it is true that I could have informed the PDI that a meeting between President Aquino and us had transpired on 6 October, however, since the purpose of the said letter was for it to be published on the first 100 days as indicated in its first paragraph, I thought that there was no need to do it.

Moreover, from my experience sending letters to the editors to the PDI, most of these letters were not published.  Hence, I never anymore expected that a letter, meant to be published not beyond the first 100 days of President Aquino, would be published a week after the end of the first 100 days and 18 days after the letter was sent.  After all, the same letter was already published in Malaya and in News Today on 1 October which really then served the purpose.

After our meeting with President Aquino on 6 October, the day after, a picture of the said meeting with a clear caption appeared in our Blog and Facebook. If PDI was not sure if a meeting had not taken place yet within those 18 days before the letter was published, it could have just quickly checked it.  However, as Mr. Jun Cinco of the Opinion page had it, the PDI did not have the time for it, since I was only one of their millions of letter writers.

To my mind, it is PDI’s responsibility of ensuring that correct information be printed after a careful verification.  After all, the letter was written in an official letterhead of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) with all the contact details written in it.   Our Federation does not mind if the style be edited to fit the PDI’s editorial standard.  But obviously, there was no editing after the first paragraph.  However, the first paragraph’s content was totally twisted which could affect AFAD’s and FIND’s credibility not only before the Office of the President but equally important, before the general public.

One of the readers in fact called me and said:  “ Ang ganda ng letter mo.  Buti nga, napahiya si Pnoy.”

It is our ardent hope that PDI, being the country’s leading newspaper, be an example to the genuine practice of the principles of responsible journalism.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO

Secretary-General

TO THE EDITOR: PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER

October 15, 2010 3 comments

THE EDITOR

The Philippine Daily Inquirer

Manila, Philippines

 

Dear Mr. Editor,

Eighteen days after I sent a Letter to the Editor dated September 28, 2010 to the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), I have seen in today’s issue of the PDI that you published an altered letter mentioning about our earlier request for appointment with President Benigno Aquino lll.  I clearly noticed that the first paragraph of the original letter sent to you was totally changed, thus affecting the whole content.  As a matter of fact, the title you gave, “Still Silent on Desaparecidos,” is erroneous based on the recent developments between our organizations and President Aquino.

To note, the first paragraph of the original letter dated 28 September states:

“October 8 is just around the corner when the first one hundred days of Pnoy will soon be over.  For the families of the disappeared in the Philippines and the rest of the world, the president whom they supported during his candidacy, has yet to open the door of his office to the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) and the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances which are repeatedly requesting for an appointment with him during his first one hundred days in office.”

I immediately called the Appointments Office of the Office of the President to explain my side and promised that I would ask the PDI to make the necessary correction.  Never did we know that the PDI would still publish an old letter and change its content without first asking the author. Many things could happen in 18 days.  To note, Malaya published the same letter as it was originally written in its Readers’ Forum on 1 October 2010.

On 6 October 2010, two days before the end of the first 100 days of President Benigno Aquino lll, he received an 8-member delegation of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) in Malacanang Palace.  He generously gave us fifty minutes of his precious time, which is amazing for the Head of State.  We mentioned our concerns, which he ardently listened to and in fact, he promised that the government will study our concerns regarding the anti-enforced disappearance bill and the international treaty against enforced disappearances.  He mentioned that most probably, in 2011, an anti-enforced disappearance law will finally see the light of day.

Hence, grateful of the time which President Aquino generously gave us and his initial promise to look into the plight of the disappeared, we look forward to the more concrete responses of this new administration to the plight of the disappeared and their families.

May we please request you to publish this letter immediately. May we also request your office to please make the necessary clarification on the letter to the editor which you published today.

Thank you.

 

 

Sincerely yours,

 

MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO

Secretary-General

OPEN LETTER TO HIS EXCELLENCY SUSILO BAMBANG YUDOYONO

October 7, 2010 1 comment

October 7, 2010

HIS EXCELLENCY SUSILO BAMBANG YUDOYONO

President
Republic of Indonesia
Presidential Palace
Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara
Jakarta Pusat 10010
INDONESIA
Fax: + 62 21 231 41 38, 345 2685, 345 7782

His Excellency Yudoyono,

Warmest greetings from the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances!

First and foremost, we would like to express our sincerest gratitude and warmest felicitations to the Indonesian government for signing the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.  Your signing the Convention signifies a very important moral commitment of the Indonesian government not to repeat the horrors of the years of dictatorship during the Suharto era.  It was also a fulfillment of the Indonesian government’s promise before the UN Human Rights Council to sign the Convention.  More importantly, it was a clear indication that the government has listened to the cry of the families of victims of this very cruel form of human rights violation, i.e. enforced disappearance.

We have visited your country several times during these last few years to knock at doors of the government offices in order to solicit their endorsements for the signing of the Convention.  Our most recent visit was during our Fourth Congress which was held in Indonesia on 31 May – 5 June 2010 and which was graced by no less than the Chairperson of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Mr. Jeremy Sarkin and by the Minister of Law and Human Rights, Mr. Patriales Akbar.  With the families of the disappeared in your country at the forefront of our campaigning and lobbying and with us accompanying them, we echo our grateful voices of families of the disappeared in your country.  We are indeed, grateful that the Indonesian government has heard our collective voices through your indelible signature to this important human rights treaty, which provides among other things, the right to truth and the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearances.

The signature of the Indonesian government to the international treaty against enforced disappearances will certainly serve as an impetus for other Asian governments to imitate your exemplary act and will hopefully encourage more signatures and ratifications from other Asian states in the near future.

The major challenge now is the process towards its ratification.  As we know, 19 states have already ratified the treaty.  We need one more state to ratify before the treaty’s entry into force which we are optimistic to happen before the end of this year.

Indonesia will go down in history as one of the first twenty countries to ratify the Convention immediately after signing.    Doing so would then give your government the legal obligation to abide by the important provisions of the treaty.  It will surely go a long way towards preventing the recurrence of cases, recognizing the rights of families of the disappeared and thus, helping us realize our vision of attaining a world without disappeared people.  Your next steps would surely contribute to the speedy process of genuine democratization of Indonesia.

His Excellency, once again, please receive our gratitude for signing the treaty.  Rest assured, as part of civil society, we will always be here to work hand in hand with the government in our common belief in the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights.

Thank you very much.

Respectfully yours,

MUGIYANTO

Chairperson

MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO

Secretary-General

Letter to the Editor

September 29, 2010 1 comment

September 28, 2010

Dear Mr. Editor,

October 8 is just around the corner when the first one hundred days of Pnoy will soon be over. For the families of the disappeared in the Philippines and the rest of the world, the president whom they supported during his candidacy, has yet to open the door of his office to the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) and the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) which are repeatedly requesting for an appointment with him during his first one hundred days in office.

While the president of the land is extremely busy with matters of utmost concern, families of this very cruel form of human rights violation, i.e. enforced disappearance, equally deserve his attention and action. The pain of waiting; the uncertainty of their disappeared loved ones’ whereabouts; the not-so-remote possibility of death; the absence of closure – all these make enforced disappearance a very cruel form, if not the cruelest form of human rights violation. It is perhaps, for this reason that the late former president Corazon Aquino met with the families of the disappeared during her first days in office in 1986.

The Philippines is a country with outstanding cases of enforced disappearances that date back since the tyrannical and rapacious Marcos regime up to the former GMA administration. Thus, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, in May 2006, requested for an official invitation from the government to visit the country for the second time. Up to this date, the Philippine government has never replied to the still pending request.

Moreover, as then candidate for membership to the UN Human Rights Council, the Philippines pledged to the latter to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. To date, the promise remains unfulfilled. The more than 15-year old bill penalizing enforced disappearances has never seen the light of day. On the contrary, cases remain unresolved and the number of cases is increasing.

How many Father Rudy Romanos, Hermon Lagmans, Jonas Burgoses and many other desaparecidos will have to be sacrificed before the altar of freedom so that the government listens to the cry of the families of the disappeared?

Yesterday, our neighboring country, Indonesia became the 86th country to sign the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Indonesia has given a very good example to its neighboring Asian countries such as the Philippines to once and for all eradicate enforced disappearances from the face of the earth.

We will never tire in calling this new administration to listen to the cry of the families of the disappeared in the Philippines and the rest of the world. But until when shall we wait for the fruits of our struggle?

Sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance without further delay!

Enact into law the more than 15 year-old bill penalizing enforced disappearances!

Signed by:

MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO
Secretary-General

OPEN LETTER TO HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT BENIGNO AQUINO lll

August 26, 2010

His Excellency President Aquino,

We are writing to you few days before the International Day of the Disappeared on August 30, 2010.   The 13th session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council held in Geneva, Switzerland in March 2010 made an official resolution for the UN General Assembly to consider this day as official.  Doing so would be the UN’s concrete tribute to the desaparecidos of the world who, plucked from the bosom of their families, continue to be deprived of their most basic right to life and liberty.

As the International Day of the Disappeared is drawing to a close, on one hand, we nurture our frustration on former Presisdent Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, whom we met twice – first, immediately after she assumed power in 2001 and second, just before she had to step down.   On the other hand, we express our optimism that your new administration will give concrete sources of hope for the families of the disappeared in our country especially during your first 100 days as the country’s highest official.

In a joint letter by the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) and the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) dated 9 August 2010, which we respectfully addressed to His Excellency and which your office received on the same day, we requested for a meeting with you preferably on September 1 for reasons we cited.  We are hopeful that in a meeting with you, we can personally articulate the agonizing cry of the families of the disappeared.

This year, the United Nations Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which has been signed by 83 states and ratified by 19, will enter into force after the ratification of one more state.  Despite the government’s voluntary pledge to the UN when it filed its candidacy as a member its Human Rights Council, the Philippines is not yet a signatory and a party to this treaty.  Moreover, almost 16 years had passed since families of the disappeared have been lobbying for the enactment into law of the anti-enforced disappearance bill, yet, our much-desired law has not yet seen the light of day.  If enacted into law, it would be the first anti-enforced disappearance law in Asia.

As we are soon commemorating the Desaparecidos’ Day,  please listen to our knocking at the doors of the Malacanang Palace, concretely by giving us the much-needed audience. Granting our request will serve as your precious gift to the disappeared and their families, whose issues were totally ignored by the former president, notoriously known to the international community, to have grossly violated human rights, including extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

His Excellency, we look forward that we be received in the presidential palace soon.

Thank you very much.

Respectfully yours,

MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO

Secretary-General