The Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has asked the Sri Lankan government to fully review its anti-terrorism regulations saying that these have caused enforced disappearances in the country.
An appeal issued on Wednesday also asked the government to immediately sign and ratify the "International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance," adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 20, 2006.
Arguing for an amendment of the anti-terror regulations, the ICJ said that according to the 1999 report of the UN Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances, the Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act were the main reasons for the continuation of enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka.
The ICJ noted that the PTA was subsequently suspended, but the regulations adopted in December 2006 incorporated some of the features of the old laws and regulations, it pointed out.
The Sri Lankan government and the parliament should "immediately carry out a full review of the security-related legislation," it said.
On the need for the ratification of the international convention on disappearances, the ICJ said: "Given the history of enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka, the ratification of the disappearances convention would be a historic step. It would send a clear political message that this heinous crime is not tolerated by the Government."
Dimensions of the problem
Giving a history of the problem in Sri Lanka, the ICJ said that in the 1980s, a UN Working Group had received 13,000 cases of involuntary disappearances. In the 1990s, four Presidential Commissions of Inquiry had confirmed the disappearance of 20,000 civilians. The ICJ continued to get reports of abductions even from the capital city of Colombo.
P Radhakrishnan, government minister and a leader of Tamils of Indian Origin told Hindustan Times on Thursday, that in the past year, 86 Tamils of Indian and Sri Lankan origin living in Colombo had been kidnapped, some for ransom, but most for reasons yet unknown.
Of these, about only 10 or 12, mostly Tamils of Indian Origin, had managed to return home, typically after paying a huge ransom, he said. The abducted Vice Chancellor of the Eastern University, Prof.S.Raveendranath, a Sri Lankan Tamil, is still at large.
Abduction of kids by militants
In the war-torn North East, disappearances are believed to be in hundreds, with the state as well as the non-state actors being accused of abduction. Between April and December last year 583 people had disappeared in the North East, according to the Jaffna office of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission.
But the main problem in the North East is the abduction of more than 5,000 children between 10 and 18 by the LTTE and other Tamil militant groups, principally the one led by Karuna. The UN and Human Rights Watch have both accused sections of the government of aiding Karuna in this "crime".