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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