Since the breakdown of the Norwegian brokered cease fire between the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an ‘unofficial’ war rages on. While this return to armed hostilities has taken a huge toll on the civilian population, displacing thousands from their homes and killing hundreds, a trend of abductions, extortion and gruesome executions have intensified fear and suffering among civilians.
The head of the Special Commission on Disappearances Justice Tilakaratne in a recent media interview stated that 2,020 people have been abducted or disappeared in Sri Lanka within a short period of 5 months (September 2006 to February 2007). Of this number, 886 cases still remain unsolved.
The majority of the victims are from the minority Tamil community. The trend of abductions – many of which have taken place in Colombo – has brought much criticism on the Government. Justice Mahanama Thillakaratne was appointed by President Mahinda Rajapakse to head the Commission investigating killings and disappearances.
In a more recent high profile incident, two volunteer workers of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society were abducted from the Fort railway station in the heart of Colombo on the 1st of June 2007. Their bodies were later found in another District, with their hands tied behind their backs, shot in the head.
A media news report on the 18th of June 2007 highlighted 5 new cases of abductions. Among them was a 35 year old Christian man Manickam Johnson who was abducted in Wellawatte, Colombo. Mr. Johnson was later reunited with his family after his ordeal.
The family of Pastor Victor Emmanuel Yogarajan (51) are still awaiting news of his fate and the fate of his two sons (aged 20 and 22 years). They disappeared while travelling to Colombo from Negombo on the 2nd of March. All attempts to trace them have proved futile.
The international community and the UN have called for improvement of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. Fifty members of the US Congress wrote to President George Bush urging the US government to step up efforts to curb extra judicial killings in Sri Lanka. The British, Japanese and several European governments too have taken up the issue with the Sri Lankan government. At the UN Security Council Session of 22nd June 2007, several members raised the issue of conflict and the toll on civilians in Sri Lanka, including Sri Lanka among the world’s trouble spots of Darfur, Afghanistan, Uganda, Lebanon and Somalia.
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