SRILANKA: Immediately disclose the whereabouts of - and release - Sinnavan Stephen Sunthararaj; put an end tothe impunity into the murder of Pattani Razeek!
Geneva-Paris, February 18, 2013. Three years after the disappearanceand murder of Mr. Pattani Razeek and almost four years after the disappearanceof Mr. Sinnavan Stephen Sunthararaj, theObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme ofthe World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federationfor Human Rights (FIDH), expresses its deep concern about the lack ofsignificant progress in the investigation into the two cases.
Mr.Pattani Razeek, Managing Trustee of the Community Trust Fund (CTF) and amember of the Executive Committee of the Asian Forum for Human Rights andDevelopment (FORUM-ASIA), was last seen in Polonnaruwa, a city in the northcentral province of Sri Lanka, in the afternoon of February 11, 2010, as he wastravelling together with other staff members from CTF on their way home from amission.
For over a year, the police made no attempt to apprehend andquestion the main suspect in Mr. Razeek’s disappearance, Mr. ShahabdeenNowshaadh, a former CTF employee, despite evidence linking him to several ransomcalls made to Mr. Razeek’s family on Mr. Razeek’s mobile number, following hisdisappearance. It is not until July 2011 that Mr. Nowshaadh was arrested. OnJuly 28, 2011, police exhumed Mr. Razeek's body in Kavathamunai, Uddamaveli,Valaichchenai province, eastern Sri Lanka.
Yet, three years after Mr. Pattani Razeek’s disappearance andmurder, the police have not made any significant progress in Mr. Razeek’s case.Although a post mortem was conducted on August 2, 2011, the police have failed tosubmit the resulting report to the family. Besides, the family has no furtherinformation on the progress of the investigation. On November 3, 2011, Mr.Nowshaadh was released on bail by the Pollonnaruwa High Court. The secondarrested suspect, Mr. Ismail Mohamed Mushdeen, was also subsequently releasedon bail.
Furthermore,the Observatory is concerned by the ongoing enforced disappearance of Mr. SinnavanStephen Sunthararaj, Project Manager at the Centre for Human Rights andDevelopment (CHRD), well known for documenting cases of child abuse in Jaffnaand District Child Coordinator from 2003 to 2005, who was last seen in Colomboin the evening of May 7, 2009, when he was abductedby unknown gunmen in army uniforms, allegedly officers of theCriminal Investigation Department (CID). He had just been released from Kollupitiyapolice station, where he had spent two months in detention without charge.Since May 2009, no information could be obtained about his whereabouts.
Right after his abduction, officers from the Cinnamon Garden policestation collected statements of witnesses, mainly of Mrs. Sunthararaj, whoidentified one of the perpetrators as one of the CID officers who hadpreviously visited her home for inquiries while her husband was held at Kollupitiya policestation. However, no investigation was initiated.
In December 2009, the Permanent Secretary to the Ministryof Foreign Affairs, Mr. Palitha Kohana, revealed at a meeting with the Embassyof the United States and European Union officials that Mr. Sunthararaj had notbeen abducted but arrested, probably by intelligence services. Since then, Mr.Sunthararaj's wife has been writing to the Office of the President of SriLanka, urging him to reveal Mr. Sunthararaj's place of detention, and callingfor his immediate release. Despite her efforts, she has still not received anyresponse.
TheObservatory strongly condemns theongoing impunity in Mr. Pattani Razeek’s murder as wellas Mr. Sunthararaj’s enforced disappearance. TheObservatory fears for his physical and psychological integrity, and urges theSri Lankan authorities to take prompt action in order to disclose thewhereabouts of Mr. Sunthararaj and release him immediately as his abduction anddetention seem to merely aim at sanctioning his human rights activities. Itfurther calls upon the authorities of Sri Lanka toeffectively work towards bringing those responsible for Mr. Razeek’s murderbefore a competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctionsprovided by the law.
The Observatory more generally urges theauthorities of Sri Lanka to guarantee that human rights defenders can carry outtheir activities free of any hindrances, to put an end to all acts ofharassment against human rights defenders and to conform to the United NationsDeclaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Universal Declaration of HumanRights and international human rights instruments ratified by Sri Lanka.
For more information,please contact:
· OMCT: Delphine Reculeau:+ 41 22 809 49 39
· FIDH: Arthur Manet /Audrey Couprie: + 33 1 43 55 25 18