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SRI LANKA: Ongoing enforced disappearance of Mr. Sinnavan Stephen Sunthararaj

April 2012

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Mr. Stephen Sinnavan Sunthararaj has been abducted by armed men on 7 May 2009. Since then, no information has been obtained concerning him. This human rights defender was the Project Manager at the Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD), well known for documenting cases of child abuse in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. His disappearance is probably intended to punish its activities in favor of human rights.

On February 12, 2009, members of the Special Task Force (STF) tried to force Mr. Sinnavan Stephen Sunthararaj into a van as he was leaving his office. A nearby police officer and a colleague were able to prevent the STF members from taking Mr. Sunthararaj. The STF officers then requested that the police officer take him to the Kolpity police station where he was formally detained on the basis of a two-month detention order, without charge.

On May 7, 2009, the day of his release, he has been abducted by armed men. While Sinnavan Sunthararaj Stephen and his wife returned from Kolpity police office by car, two people on a motorcycle blocked their way. Meanwhile, a van stopped near the car. Five armed men in army uniform alighted of the van, opened the door of the vehicle in which Mr. Sunthararaj was travelling, bundled him into the van and sped off.

The abduction occurred in a busy and crowded street. Mr. Sunthararaj’s wife has identified one of the perpetrators of the abduction as one of the Criminal Investigation Department officers who had previously visited her home for inquiries while her husband was held at Kolpity police station. However, no investigation was initiated.

In December 2009, the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Palitha Kohana, had revealed at a meeting with United States Embassy and European Union officials that Mr. Sunthararaj had not been abducted but arrested, probably by intelligence services. Since then, Mr. Sunthararaj’s wife has been writing to the Office of the President of Sri Lanka, urging him to reveal Mr. Sunthararaj’s place of detention, and calling for his immediate release. She has still not received any response, in spite all her efforts.

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