AI index: ASA 37/020/2013
27 August 2013
Sri Lanka: Navi Pillay’s visit and Day of the Disappeared
Spokespeople and new case studies available
On 30 August 2013, the world will mark the International Day of the Disappeared.
In Sri Lanka, some 12,000 complaints of enforced disappearances have been submitted to the
UN since the 1980s – making it second only to Iraq. But the actual number of disappeared is
much higher, with at least 30,000 cases alleged up to 1994 and many thousands reported
“The number of disappeared people in Sri Lanka is astounding. The government has to stop
making empty promises and once and for all seriously investigate the tens of thousands of
cases of enforced disappearances,” said Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International’s Sri Lanka
This year’s Day of the Disappeared coincides with the visit of UN High Commissioner for
Human Rights, Navi Pillay, to Sri Lanka (25-31 August). She is expected to meet family
members of some of the disappeared.
Amnesty International spokespeople as well as activists based in Sri Lanka are available for
interviews on enforced disappearances and on Navi Pillay’s visit. To arrange, please contact:
Olof Blomqvist, Amnesty International Asia/Pacific press officer, + 44 (0) 20 7413 5871,
In addition, Amnesty International has documented several new case studies of enforced
disappearances in Sri Lanka that have never been published before. Photo material and more
information on these cases are available through the Amnesty International press office.
On 26 July 2013, the Sri Lankan government announced that it will establish a Presidential
Commission of Inquiry to look into enforced disappearances from the final years the conflict
(1990-2009), but there are questions about the commission’s independence from the
Similar commissions appointed in the past have accomplished very little and some have had
close ties to the authorities, undermining their independence. There have been ten
commissions on disappearances since the early 1990s, but their recommendations have
largely been ignored, and few of the many alleged perpetrators they identified have been
brought to justice.
During the final bloody months of the armed conflict in 2009, thousands of people
disappeared after their arrest or capture by the Sri Lankan security forces or abduction by the
Tamil Tigers. Very few of those cases have been resolved. In addition there has been blatant
intimidation reported against families and others seeking to take remedial action.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) gives the security forces wide powers to arrest
suspected opponents of the government and detain them incommunicado and without charge
or trial for long periods – conditions which provide a ready context for deaths in custody,
enforced disappearances and torture.
Victims and their relatives have faced enormous difficulties in seeking redress. Hundreds of
relatives have filed habeas corpus petitions in an attempt to trace ‘disappeared’ prisoners but
the procedure has proved slow and ineffective.