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Released without charge – Sri Lanka drops case against navy commander over abductions

Sri Lankan authorities have reportedly dropped all charges against former navy commander Wasantha Karannagoda, a man who was wanted over the abduction and possible murder of 11 youth, in a case that drew worldwide scrutiny.

Earlier this week, Sri Lankan Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam told the Court of Appeal that his office would not be pursue any charges against Karannagoda. AFP news quoted a court official as stating that a lower court would soon discharge the navy commander who was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet by Sri Lanka’s previous president Maithripala Sirisena in 2019.

The latest announcement from Sri Lankan authorities comes after the Attorney General announced it would not proceed with charges of torture, extortion, abduction and conspiracy to murder against Karannagoda earlier this year, drawing international condemnation, including from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Amnesty International.

The case concerns the abduction of 11 mostly Tamil youth in Colombo during 2008-2009. They had been detained at the Sri Lanka’s Trincomalee Navy camp under the knowledge of the former navy commander. None of them have ever been found and are presumed to have been murdered.

Relatives of four of the youth have filed a writ application with the Court of Appeal seeking an order to make null the decision taken by the Attorney General, but it remains unlikely that there will be a reversal.

The eleven youths have been named Kasthuriarachchi John, Thiyagarajah Jegan, Rajiv Naganathan, Soosaipillai Amalan, Soosaipillai Roshan, Kasthuriarachchi Anton, Prageeth Vishvanathan, Thilakeshwaran Ramalingam, Mohamed Dilan, Mohamed Saajid and Ali Anwar. Two fathers and their sons are among the victims and their ages range from 17 to 50 at the time of abduction.

Thiyagarajah Jegan’s mother spoke to 47 Roots in a documentary on Sri Lanka’s enforced disappearances in 2018.

See her interview below.

In 2019, the mother of Rajiv Naganathan, a 19-year-old who was abducted on September 17 2008, described her final phone call with her son. “Amma they are bringing 18 - 20-year-old boys and girls here and shooting them dead,” Rajiv had told his mother over the phone.

His mother recorded each of the calls she received from her son after his abduction in a diary and told the CID that her son had confided in her about horrific scenes unfolding inside the detention cells. The CID confirmed that investigators believed Rajiv Naganathan had been murdered after May 21, 2009.

A report from the International Truth and Justice Project Sri Lanka (ITJP) also highlighted the case, as part of a wider examination of crimes committed by the Sri Lankan navy.

See more from the ITJP here.

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