Statement by Sri Lankan Civil Society Activists
27th June 2011
On 25th June 2011 we marked 500 days since the disappearance of Mr. Pattani Razeek, a Sri Lankan Human Rights Defender, Managing Trustee of the Community Trust Fund (CTF) in Puttalam and Executive Committee Member of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA).
On February 11, 2010, Mr. Razeek travelled to Polonnaruwa with CTF staff, where he met with a group of persons parked near the Jumma Mosque in Kaduruwela. Mr. Razeek was last seen getting into a van with those persons, having informed his colleagues that he was travelling to the Eastern town of Valaichchenai. Mr. Razeek has not been seen or heard from since. Shortly afterwards, Mr. Razeek’s family received a few calls from Mr. Razeek’s mobile phone number, demanding large amounts of money to secure his release. Then the calls stopped.
The family and CTF lodged several complaints with the local police following Mr. Razeek’s disappearance. The police filed a B report to the Puttalam Magistrate Court, on February 16 2010, naming Mr. Shahabdeen Nowshaadh, a former CTF employee, as the chief suspect in Mr. Razeek’s disappearance. The police have evidence linking Nowshaadh to several ransom calls made to Mr. Razeek’s family, on Mr. Razeek’s mobile number, after his disappearance. However, for over a year, the police have made no attempt to apprehend and question Nowshaadh regarding Mr. Razeek’s disappearance. Mr. Razeek’s family believes that the failure to take action against Nowshaad is connected to his close association with an influential government Minister from the area. In his anticipatory bail application to the Puttalam Magistrates Court in June 2010, Nowshaadh claimed to be associated with Industries and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, submitting that his arrest would cause irreparable harm to the Minister’s reputation and work.
As human rights defenders and members of civil society in Sri Lanka, we are outraged at the failure of the authorities to take Shahabdeen Nowshaadh into custody or even question him. We are deeply concerned about the lack of progress in investigations into Mr. Razeek’s disappearance as a whole, especially in view of allegations of political interference in the process.
It is interesting to note that, after almost 2 years of neglect, in the past week there has been some response to the Razeek family’s complaint to the National Human Rights Commission as well as information sent to them that the investigation has been handed over to the CID. We hope that these measures are not purely cosmetic.
These changes have occurred in a context in which management of the CTF, of which Mr. Razeek was a founding member and managing trustee, has been taken over by the Ministry of Defence on June 16 2011. An Interim Board of Management, including a senior military officer, has been appointed to manage the organization pending inquiry. We have no indication of the grounds on which such drastic action has been taken against the organization.
In keeping with commitments for the protection of human rights defenders and the freedom of association in Sri Lanka, we call for a credible investigation, free from political interference, into Mr. Razeek’s disappearance, including the swift apprehension of the chief suspect, as well as for guarantees of safety for Mr. Razeek’s family and community leaders in Puttalam who are campaigning on the family’s behalf.
Ven. Welimuwapathane Piyarathna Thero, Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe, Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph, Catholic Bishop of Mannar, Rev. Fr. Nandana Manathunga, Director, Human Rights Office, Kandy, JC Weliamuna, Attorney-at-Law, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director, Centre for Policy Alternatives, Dr. Nimalka Fernando, Mothers and Daughters of Lanka, Sunila Abeysekera, Executive Director, INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre, Sudarshana Gunawardana, Attorney-at-Law, Executive Director, Rights Now Collective for Democracy, Ruki Fernando, Director, Rights Now Collective for Democracy, Mano Ganesan, Leader of Democratic Peoples Front, Convener of Civil Monitoring Commission, President of Democratic Worker’s Congress, Siritunga Jayasuriya, Leader of the United Socialist Party and 50 others.