Protest urging new probe into fate of 2 missing activists

MissingAbout 100 colleagues and family members protested outside Colombo’s main railway station on Thursday to urge the Sri Lankan government to conduct a new investigation into the fate of two activists who disappeared four years ago.

The activists — Lalith Kumar Weeraraju and Kugan Muruganandan — went missing on Dec. 9, 2011, while organizing a news conference to mark Human Rights Day in the country’s former civil war zone in the north.

Colleagues and relatives have accused the military of abducting them. The military has denied the allegation.

Since January, Sri Lanka’s new government has taken steps to investigate some unresolved disappearances and killings and has arrested some suspects.

Sri Lanka is facing international criticism for failing to properly investigate alleged abductions, attacks and killings of political opponents, activists and journalists during and after the civil war, which ended in 2009.

Ravindra Mudalige, head of the Movement for Equal Rights which organized Thursday’s protest, said investigations under the previous government failed to reveal the fate of the two activists and “therefore, we urge the new government to conduct a fresh probe and reveal what happened to these two and who are responsible for their abduction and as well as hundreds of other abductions.”

Last month, three experts from a United Nations working group on forced disappearances visited Sri Lanka and said they found a secret underground detention center at a navy base where many post-civil war detainees are believed to have been interrogated and tortured.

The experts said there could be other similar centers used to hold people who disappeared and urged the government to investigate.

Tens of thousands of people are believed to have been killed in the final stages of the civil war between government forces and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels. Scores of rebels and ethnic Tamil civilians were arrested after the rebels were defeated and remain unaccounted for.

In addition, suspected rebels, sympathizers, human rights activists and critical journalists have been abducted by unknown groups after the war and remain listed as missing.

The U.N. human rights chief has recommended that Sri Lanka set up a special hybrid court that would include foreign judges and investigators to examine the alleged atrocities, saying Sri Lanka’s own courts are not yet ready to carry out a fair judicial process. (AP)

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