Friday, May 1, 2009

In peace, Sri Lankans still disappear; 5,727 disappearances in one year



By Maura R. O'Connor

BATTICALOA, Sri Lanka — When the Venkatesans recall how many of their family members have disappeared, the husband and wife look down at their hands and begin counting fingers. Four of their relations are missing, each abducted in the night by unmarked white vans. Three were taken in the last four months.

For any other family around the world, this number would be shocking. But for an ethnic Tamil family in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province, it is unremarkable. For decades the region’s civilians have been traumatized by widespread disappearances, and they believe the majority of them are perpetrated by government security forces or government-backed paramilitary groups.

“We are powerless and don’t know what to do,” said Mrs. Venkatesan (the name has been changed at her request). Her only son was abducted last year and held in a prison for 11 months without charge. The 27-year-old said the police tortured him by beating the bottom of his feet. “When you are 40 years old, you will never walk again,” he said they told him. Last December he was released without explanation, narrowly escaping becoming another finger to count on his mother’s hand.

No one is sure exactly how many individuals have disappeared in the East over the last three decades as the Sri Lankan government has fought the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). What is clear is that the disappearances are continuing, even as Sri Lankan government forces farther north engage in what they call they call the final battle.

Abductions have been a favored counterinsurgency tactic of the Sri Lankan government in its civil war with the LTTE — and the East has been at the heart of this battle from the start.

In one of the bloodiest periods of Sri Lanka’s history, from 1988 to 1994, 20,000 people around the country disappeared, although some believe that the true number may be two to three times higher.

Currently there are 5,727 unsolved cases of disappearances registered with the United Nations Human Rights Council, one of the worst records in the world. In a report issued in February 2009, the council expressed its alarm that the number of disappearances appeared to be increasing, particularly in eastern towns like Trincomalee. But widespread fears of reprisals, the council said, means that the true scale of the problem is likely underreported.

Many residents of the Eastern Province hoped that when the Sri Lankan government won control of the region from the LTTE in 2007, the possibility of a new era of peace would be realized. Instead, disappearances remain a common, almost daily, occurrence.

2 comments:

Elizxer said...

who cares sinhala doesn't care thats the sad part, meanwhile we gota do our job, once Indian election is over and the right ppl are voted, they will seperate the sri lanka for tamil homeland... then Sinhala will be confused and say why seperate the country when it was only WAR ON TERROR,

At that moment, Sri Lankan President have lot to explain !

Nalani said...

Elizxer said...
who cares sinhala doesn't care thats the sad part, meanwhile we gota do our job, once Indian election is over and the right ppl are voted, they will seperate the sri lanka for tamil homeland... then Sinhala will be confused and say why seperate the country when it was only WAR ON TERROR,

At that moment, Sri Lankan

go back to your dream