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Resurgence of ‘white van’ abductions

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has called for investigations into the disappearances of two activists, who helped organise a protest in Jaffna drawing attention to the plights of missing people on the island.

The disappearances are just the latest in a string of abductions, which have seen a marked rise in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

The two missing men, Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganathan, were last seen in Avaragal near Jaffna, as they were making their way to the protest on Friday. Both men were involved in organising a series of protests against disappearances, bringing relatives of the victims from the North to Colombo.

The statement from the AHRC comes on the same day that they released an account into the death of 28-year old Sri Skandaraja Sumanan, who was arrested and taken to Jaffna Police Station, before his dead body was discovered in a canal with over 40 injury marks.

The number of people missing in the North-East has risen sharply, as well as in Colombo, where at least nine people have been abducted in recent months. The majority of victims were all either last seen in Police custody or have been taken away by unmarked white vans. Relatives of the missing have been turned away by the Police and Red Cross, as they try to register complaints.

The recent spate of abductions threatens to plunge the island back into the trend of state-sponsored disappearances that have long plagued the Tamil people.

A 1999 UN study found Sri Lanka to have the second highest number of disappearances in the world, with 12,000 having been detained by security forces. This worrying pattern returned once the Sri Lankan government’s war effort was mobilised after the collapse of the peace talks, as abductions once again began to rise.

See the video by Human Rights Watch entitled “Sri Lanka’s Ghosts” made in 2008, below.

Also see our earlier posts:

White vans and vanishing men (Jan 2009)

Sri Lanka’s ‘White Van Syndrome’ (Dec 2008)

For the people of the NorthEast, 2007 was a grim year (Jan 2008)

Death from white vans: the logic of terror (Sep 2006)


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