Today, as the United Nations commemorates the International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) reiterates its strong condemnation against the arbitrary arrest and detention of Balendran Jeyakumari and her 13-year old daughter and the intensifying intimidation and harassment against Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen after their release from detention.
Balendran Jeyakumari’s husband disappeared during the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). After the war, her son disappeared after surrendering to the Sri Lankan army.
The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) is greatly concerned with the arrest and detention of Balendra Jeyakumari, active campaigner against enforced disappearances in the northern Kilinochi district of Sri Lanka yesterday. AFAD also calls on probation officials who are holding her daughter to ensure her safety.
Based on media reports initially gathered, Ms.Jeyakumari was arrested after being held in her house for hours on the grounds of hiding a criminal hunted by the police. Her case is said to be covered in the country’s tough anti-terrorism law. However, her background as active campaigner in the search for disappeared relatives especially her missing 15 year-old son gives us reason to doubt the authenticity of the police case against her. Ms. Jeyakumari and her daughter, based on media accounts, have been in the forefront of protests demanding truth from government on the details of their relatives who disappeared during and immediately after the war. In fact, during the visit of British Prime Minister David Cameron in the North of Sri Lanka last year, she and her daughter were prominently captured in media reports as part of those leaders mobilizing the relatives.
The ongoing political crisis in Thailand must not sideline the continued efforts to surface the truth regarding the disappearance of Somchai Neelaphaijit nor it be made a scapegoat to end investigation on the case, now on its 10th year, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) said in a statement.
Somchai Neelaphaijit, a prominent Muslim lawyer, was filing a case of torture against the police in Southern Thailand on behalf of five men who were in their custody prior to his disappearance on 10 March 2004. The area was then under emergency regulation in 2005 after a year of Martial Law. The Department of Special Investigation Division, supposedly an elite unit under the Ministry of Justice tasked to handle the case has not made significant progress in its work to date. Five policemen who were charged for pulling Somchai away from his car were released and only one official, Police Major Ngern Thongsuk was convicted by the Court of First Instance in 2006. However, in 2011, the Appeals Court overturned the decision and all the accused were considered innocent. The decision is currently under review by the Supreme Court.
On this important day honoring the invaluable role of women in the development of society, AFAD pays tribute to the strength and tenacity of the mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, aunties and grandparents of the disappeared who never wavered in their commitment to search for justice for their disappeared loved ones amidst challenges. It is through their strength that the Federation gets inspiration from in pursuing its advocacies for governments and societies in Asia and the world to end the practice of enforced disappearance.
AFAD also calls on governments especially in Asia to institute legal mechanisms of recourse for justice and restitution claims of women victims of enforced disappearance. The need to ratify the Convention and to enact domestic laws criminalizing enforced disappearance is imperative so that the crime is legally acknowledged and corresponding sanctions for perpetrators as well as preventive measures can be undertaken. Further, victims will be provided necessary relief legally, psychologically, emotionally and financially.