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Sri Lanka Has World’s 2nd-highest Number Of Enforced Disappearances: Study

Sri Lanka has the second-highest number of enforced disappearances, as tens of thousands of people have “forcibly disappeared”.

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — In terms of enforced disappearances, Sri Lanka is ranked second globally as tens of thousands of people have “forcibly disappeared” over many decades, as per Amnesty International.

After Sri Lanka’s Attorney General’s Department decided not to proceed with charges against former Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda, these observations by Amnesty International were put forward. He has allegations against his name over his role in the abduction of 11 Tamil youth in 2008 and 2009.

The Sri Lankan Navy is alleged to have been behind the forcible disappearance of the “Navy 11”.

“Sri Lanka has the world’s second-highest number of enforced disappearances, with tens of thousands of people forcibly disappeared over many decades,” said Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.

“Enforced Disappearance has touched every community, and within Sri Lanka, there has been virtually no accountability for these grievous crimes,” said the report by Amnesty International. “With a backlog of between 60,000 and 100,000 alleged enforced disappearances since the late 1980s, there is no shortage of examples of frustrated justice.”

“This case was an opportunity for the Sri Lankan authorities to deliver justice for crimes under international law, by ensuring that those reasonably suspected of criminal responsibility, including those implicated for aiding and abetting and under command responsibility, are brought to trial” 

“Obstacles in the Sri Lankan Courts have already beset this case, and today’s decision pushes justice further out of reach for the families of victims,” said Mishra. 

“The AG’s department must explain the reasons for its decision, and Sri Lankan authorities must deliver truth, justice, and reparations for all victims of enforced disappearance.”

The “Navy 11” case refers to the enforced disappearance of 11 Tamil youth in 2008-2009, allegedly in an abduction racket spearheaded by members of the Sri Lankan Navy. 

As per the rights group, in August 2018, the police’s Criminal Investigation Department arrested Lieutenant Commander Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi, alias “Navy Sampath,” as the main suspect.

“The Criminal Investigation Department accused the then Chief of Defense Staff Admiral Ravindra Wijeguneratne of shielding one of the main suspects. The court also ordered his arrest,” Amnesty International said. 

In February 2019, former Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy, Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda, was named as the 14th suspect in the case. He was accused of knowing about the enforced disappearance by naval personnel he had to command responsibility for and choosing to take no action. 

In January 2020, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed a Presidential Commission of Inquiry into “political victimization” under the previous government. Many state officials facing trial over human rights violations have complained of being “politically targeted” by the previous government. They have sought the Commission’s support in absolving them from ongoing court cases.

(With inputs from ANI)

Edited by Saptak Datta and Ritaban Misra