Damning report on killings, disappearances compiled

By Gihan de Chickera, Daily Mirror
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At least 547 civilians have been killed and 396 gone missing in government controlled areas in Sri Lanka this year, a report compiled by three leading Civil Society Organizations has revealed.

The report jointly compiled by The Law & Society Trust, the Civil Monitoring Commission and the Free Media Movement includes the names, locations and other details of civilians either killed or reported missing in the first half of the year.

This comprehensive document, which would be updated hereafter on a regular basis, has been presented to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, the UN Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Ministry, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry appointed to probe Human Rights violations and the IIGEP headed by Justice Bhagwathi.

According to the report, Tamils account for a large proportion of persons killed (70.7%), compared with 9.1 percent Sinhalese and 5.9 percent Muslims. “The gravity of this situation becomes even more pronounced when these statistics are looked at with the knowledge that Tamil people make up only 16% of the total population” the report notes. Almost 90 percent of the victims are male, with women accounting for 9.7 percent of deaths, the report adds.

Jaffna is the worst affected district, with the highest number of killings and abductions reported. The district heads the list in killings with 23.2 percent of total cases while disappearances account for 49.5 percent. At the same time with regards to persons killed Batticaloa with 21.5 percent and Vavuniya with 21.3 percent follow Jaffna closely. The Colombo district comes second in abductions, accounting for 17.7 percent of total cases.

As with the killings, Tamils suffer disproportionately in terms of abductions too– 64.6 percent when compared with 3 percent Sinhalese and 3 percent Muslims, though the ethnicity of all victims has not been verified. Men represent nearly 98% of all missing persons, the report notes.

The report also highlights the killing of religious leaders since last year, namely Father Jim Brown (August 2006), Selliah Parameshwaran Kurukkal (February 2007) and Ven Handungamuwe Nandarathna Thero (March 2007).

The compilers of the report urge the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to identify and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes to ensure justice to the victims and their families. “We have submitted this information to the Commission so that it may examine the attached documents and investigate these incidents. This is of vital importance in the absence of an acknowledgement of these killings and disappearances by the government and other statutory bodies with a mandate for human rights protection in the country” the report stressed.

“In the absence of adequate and visible steps taken so far by domestic bodies to address these violations, there are indications that this trend will continue in the coming months” it added.