EXTERNAL AI Index: ASA 37/11/97
UA 132/97 "Disappearance" 2 May 1997
SRI LANKAKandiah Sivakumar, aged 20
Kanagasabai Ravichandran, aged 20
Kandiah Sivakumar and Kanagasabai Ravichandran, two firewood sellers from Rukam
village, have been reported "disappeared" after they were taken into custody
by the army near the Black Bridge, Chenkalady, Batticaloa district on 20 April
According to eye-witnesses, they were stopped by soldiers from the Kommadurai
army camp at around 2pm. They were on their way home from Eravur where they
had gone to sell firewood. Their bicycles were also taken. The reason for
their arrest is not known, but it is possible that they were suspected of having
links with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the main armed opposition
group fighting for an independent state in the north and east of the country.
The village of Rukam is in an LTTE-controlled area.
When the young men's parents went to make inquiries at Kommadurai army camp
the next day, the army officials told them that Kandiah Sivakumar and Kanagasabai
Ravichandran had already been released. However, they had not returned home.
Further inquiries by the Batticaloa Peace Committee and members of parliament
have met with the same response.
For years, "disappearances" have been reported in large numbers in Sri Lanka.
The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
reports that it received more than 11,000 complaints from Sri Lanka between
1983 and 1990. In 1991, it received 410 and after that the number of cases
declined. After the resumption, in April 1995, of the armed conflict between
the security forces and the LTTE, "disappearances" began to be reported again,
despite some measures taken by the government to prevent their occurrence.
Between late 1995 and early 1997, the total number of "disappearances" reported
to Amnesty International reached 648, the highest number since 1990. That more
than 600 "disappearances" have occurred in about one year highlights the need
for immediate action to be taken to prevent these violations from continuing.
Recently the Sri Lankan Government pledged at the United Nations Commission
for Human Rights that "full rigours of the law will be brought to bear" on
the perpetrators of human rights violations. Amnesty International is urging
that those responsible for "disappearances" be brought to justice without
exception and that the Prevention of Terrorism Act and Emergency Regulations,
which provide a ready context for these violations to occur, be amended.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in English or your own language:
- expressing concern about the arrest and subsequent “disappearance” of Kandiah
Sivakumar and Kanagasabai Ravichandran on 20 April at Chenkalady, Batticaloa
- urging that an independent investigation into their fate or whereabouts be
established, the results of which should be made public;
- welcoming the initial steps already taken to bring to justice the alleged
perpetrators responsible for certain incidents of human rights violations,