EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: ASA 37/12/92
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UA 398/92 Fear of "disappearance"/ 17 December 1992
SRI LANKA: Vishwanathan Pathmanathan, aged 38, shop owner
Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of Vishwanathan Pathmanathan
who was arrested on 24 November 1992 but whose detention has not been
acknowledged by the authorities. Vishwanathan Pathmanathan was taken away by
army personnel while attending a memorial ceremony for his aunt and was put
on a bus going from Batticaloa to Valaichenai. He was taken off the bus at
the Kommathurai Army Camp and was seen being taken into the camp at around
When relatives tried to make inquiries at the army camp on 24 November, they
were chased away. When they went back the next day, they were told that
Vishwanathan Pathmanathan had been transferred to Batticaloa. A
fellow-prisoner, who has since been released, has testified that he last saw
Vishwanathan Pathmanathan in detention at Kommathurai army camp on 25 November
1992. He said he saw Vishwanathan Pathmanathan being put in a lorry by soldiers
and driven away. When relatives made inquiries at Batticaloa prison camp, they
were told there was no such person detained there.
Relatives have made appeals to the International Committee of the Red Cross
(ICRC) and Human Rights Task Force (HRTF) offices at Batticaloa. They also
have also made enquiries with the Commanding Officer of the Army at Batticaloa
but to date have not received a response.
According to the relatives, Vishwanathan Pathmanathan may have been arrested
at the instigation of a person who works closely with the army in Kommathurai
and who had tried to extort money from him. This person had been present at
the time of his arrest.
Although reports of "disappearances" and extrajudicial executions during 1992
have been significantly fewer than in previous years, these grave violations
continue at a high rate, particularly in Batticaloa District.
During a recent Amnesty International mission to Sri Lanka, senior military
officers admitted that the army holds certain prisoners in unacknowledged
detention for periods varying from a few days to a few weeks, with no written
record of the arrest during this time, and hidden from the ICRC.