The United Nations human rights office today called for the swift investigation and prosecution of the killers of a prominent human rights defender whose body is believed to have been found, 17 months after he disappeared.
A body exhumed yesterday in Sri Lanka is thought to be that of Pattani Razeek, the managing trustee of Community Trust Fund (CTF) and a leading member of regional non-governmental organization (NGO) networks, according to Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
“We hope that investigation and prosecution of this crime will now be expedited, and that there will be similar progress in resolving the many thousands of outstanding cases of disappearance in Sri Lanka,” she said.
Mr. Razeek was last seen near the mosque in Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka’s North Central province on 11 February 2010, although his family and colleagues received telephone calls demanding a ransom for some months after his disappearance.
“Police investigations made little progress amid allegations of political interference. CTF members and Muslim community leaders faced threats to drop the case,” said Ms. Shamdasani.
The spokesperson noted that two suspects in the killing were only arrested in the past few weeks.
“The information they provided reportedly led to the body. Now that the fate of this human rights defender has been established, it is time for an investigation to establish the truth of the circumstances of this heinous crime, and for prosecution to bring justice to the victim’s family.”
She voiced hope that there will be breakthrough in similar cases of people who have been disappeared during and since Sri Lanka’s protracted civil war with Tamil rebels, which ended in 2009.
One case involves the freelance journalist and cartoonist Prageeth Ranjan Bandara Ekneligoda, who has been missing since January 2010.
“We strongly urge the Government of Sri Lanka to expedite investigations and provide information on Mr. Ekneligoda’s whereabouts and fate.”
OHCHR is also calling on the Government in Colombo to seek the assistance of the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, which currently has 5,653 outstanding cases from Sri Lanka in its records.