In a country that has achieved so much in literacy, education and social development, is it not indeed unfortunate that “White Van” has frightened the entire nation? Appearance of a white van assures a disappearance of some one. If you Google or do any other internet search (or any media that is not controlled by the Government) on Sri Lanka, “White Van” resembles the Defence Authorities of our country. Are we not ashamed of it?
“White van operation” is the most used mode of enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka at present. Enforced disappearance violates a range of human rights including the right to security and dignity of a person, right to a legal personality, humane conditions of detention, right to fair trial, right to a family life and when killed, the right to life. The disappeared person is often tortured and in constant fear for life, removed from the protection of the law, deprived of all their rights and is at the mercy of the captors. Do you respect these rights seriously? What would you do if you or a family member experiences abduction?
The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) condemns the harassment and intimidation of human rights defender Mrs. Sandya Ekneligoda by Sri Lankan government supporter Mr. Douglas Wickramaratne during the side event organized during the 19th sessions on the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and the statements by Deputy Solicitor General Mr. Shavinra Fernando during the Homagama Magistrate Courts (Colombo district) hearing.
"The treatment of Mr. Wickramaratne and Deputy Solicitor General Mr. Fernando to Ms. Sandya Eknaligoda’s participation in searching for the truth behind the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda and search for justice in behalf of the other victims of enforced disappearance is an insult not only to the victim Prageeth but also to the cause that Sandya is campaigning for – justice for the victims of enforced disappearance and the complete elimination of the practice of enforced disappearance." said Mary Aileen Bacalso, Secretary General of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD).
The right to the truth or "the right to know the truth" is now widely recognized under international law as an indispensable aspect of justice. In case of enforced disappearance, this means the right of the victims’ families to know the circumstances of the disappearance of their loved ones, the progress and results of any investigations, establishing with certainty the fate and whereabouts of the victims, and the identity of those responsible. Establishing the truth is therefore a necessary step towards ending impunity.
While the search for truth is a requisite for justice, all victims of human rights violations should be treated with humanity and respect for their dignity regardless of whether the perpetrators of such transgressions are identified, apprehended, prosecuted, or convicted. It is the duty of the state to undertake appropriate measures to provide them with adequate, effective and prompt reparation as a humanitarian act of redressing violations committed against them.
The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) congratulates our colleagues and friends from the Komisi Untuk Orang Hilang dan Korban Tindak Kekerasan or The Commission for “the Disappeared” and Victims of Violence (KontraS) on their organization’s fourteenth anniversary.
As one of the most active member-organizations of our federation, KontraS is committed to the work for human rights. Fourteen years in its struggle for human rights, KontraS has withstood the tests of time – overcoming the consequences of the series of raids in 2002 and 2003 and worse still, witnessing the brutality of the assassination of its founder, Munir. Such commitment is one of AFAD’s sources of strength for our regional federation.