During the JVP insurrection between 1988 and 1990, over 40,000 Sinhalese people disappeared, mostly following arbitrary round-ups by the security forces. On assuming power in 1994, the People’s Alliance government pledged to bring the perpetrators to book. Three commissions were appointed and several mass graves excavated. The commissions investigated 19,079 disappearances and a fourth commission is currently probing another 13,000 disappearances.
Welcoming the Embilipitiya judgment, Amnesty International said that impunity for past abuses can be ended when there is a political will and shielding perpetrators undermines the rule of law and human rights protection.
Government delay in probing the Chemmani disappearances in Jaffna has led to doubts whether there is a political will to identify the perpetrators. Over 600 Tamils disappeared after the Army captured Jaffna in early 1996. Soldier Somaratne Rajapakse, who was convicted in the Krishanthy Kumarasamy murder case, has said that he knows the locations of the mass graves. The UN Human Rights Commissioner and Amnesty have offered to assist in the investigation.
The Foreign Ministry announced on 10 February that Jaffna judge SAE Ekanathan visited Chemmani and after observing that the site was inundated, ordered for excavation on 5 March. As it turned out, the judge neither visited Chemmani nor fixed a date for excavation, but on 8 February allowed a police application to obtain the services of a forensic expert. The judge has accused the government of interference.
There is concern in Jaffna over continuing disappearances. C Basilraj, 24, of Gurunagar disappeared on 28 January and Y Jegathas, 16, of Kodikamam is missing since 5 February. Complaint has been made to the Human Rights Commission that three fishermen went missing on 28 February. Kandasamy Suthakaran was taken away by the Army and has not returned home.