HRCSL calls for criminal investigation into 2024 alleged enforced disappearance

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) in a letter to the Attorney General this week has stressed that it is imperative that an independent and impartial criminal investigation be launched into the alleged enforced disappearance of Gonapinuwala Kapila Kumara De Silva, a resident of Horowpathana, Anuradhapura in March 2024.

The HRCSL urged the Attorney General to review the evidence and allegations and decide whether a separate criminal inquiry should be initiated by the Sri Lanka Police under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance Act, based on the Attorney General’s counsel.

The HRCSL observed that De Silva was reported missing on 27 March 2024. According to De Silva’s account, he was allegedly abducted by a group in civilian attire in a white van who identified themselves as law enforcement officers.

“He alleged that the persons who took him into custody interrogated him for several days in relation to a shooting incident. He alleged that his interrogators assaulted him and that, on one occasion, informed him that he would be executed. He claimed that he had informed the interrogators that he was not involved in the said incident,” the HRCSL said.

The HRCSL reported that it had contacted the Special Task Force (STF) to ascertain if De Silva was in their custody, as his family suspected. It said however, the STF denied having arrested him and said that De Silva was a suspect in a shooting incident and was wanted by the STF, but he was currently evading capture.

The HRCSL said it found on 22 April that De Silva was in the custody of the Pitigala Police and had been presented to court before being remanded. According to the victim, the HRCSL said he was handed over to the Pitigala Police on 20 April by those who abducted him.

The HRCSL told the Attorney General it is of the view that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the key elements of the offence of ‘enforced disappearance’ according to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance Act may have been satisfied in De Silva’s case.

“The HRCSL accordingly urges you to consider providing the requisite advice to Sri Lanka Police to initiate such a criminal investigation into the possible enforced disappearance of de Silva. We also urge you to consider, if applicable, the initiation of proceedings before the High Court under and in terms of the Act,” it said.