Twelve years have passed since 7 TRO workers were abducted by Sri Lankan government-backed paramilitaries in Batticaloa. The kidnappings, which took place on the January 29 - 30, 2006, are yet to lead to a prosecution.
The paramilitary Karuna group was accused of abducting the aid workers before torturing and murdering them.
Below is an extract from a statement released by the aid organisation, a year after the disappearance.
"It is with great sorrow and condolences to the families that TRO now believes that our co-workers were executed soon after being abducted by the GoSL-affiliated “Karuna Group” paramilitaries. Recent news reports state that they were tortured before being murdered and their bodies disposed of."
"To date the Sri Lanka Police and security forces have yet to conduct any meaningful investigation or inquiry into these disappearances. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka investigated the case and made a report to its head that has never been released. In addition to not thoroughly investigating the abduction of the TRO aid workers the GoSL has also not listed their case among the 15 cases that the President’s “Commission of Inquiry” will investigate."
"The atmosphere of impunity that exists in Sri Lanka has lead to a steady decline in the status of human rights and the safety of humanitarian workers on the island."
The 7 who are missing and believed dead are: Mr. THAMIRAJA VASANTHARAJAN. Mr. SHANMUGANATHAN SUJENDRAN Mr. KAILASAPILLAI RAVINTHIRAN Mr. ARULTHAVARASA SATHEESKARAN Ms THANUSHKODI PREMINI Mr. THANGARASA KATHIRKAMAR Mr. KASINATHAR GANESHALINGAM
Taking place as the LTTE were preparing to engage in talks with the Sri Lankan government in Geneva, the incident drew condemnation from many including the United States, who said on the day after the abductions,
"The U.S. Embassy is concerned about the reported January 30 kidnapping of five members of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) at Welikanda in Polonnaruwa District. The Embassy urges the relevant authorities to rapidly investigate these allegations. The Embassy again calls on all parties to exercise restraint and calm, especially in the run-up to the cease-fire talks in Geneva."
The Sri Lankan government meanwhile, maintained that the abduction, alongside other reports of human rights violations were being “diligently investigated”.
"The murders of youth in Trincomalee, the reported abductions of members of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization, TRO, the assassination of Parliamentarian Joseph Pararajasingham and all other reported incidents are being diligently investigated by our law enforcement authorities and we are taking all necessary action to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice."
Opening Statement by Minister Nimal Siripala deSilva, Head of Delegation, Government of Sri Lanka at the opening session of the talks between Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE 22 February 2006
"What is especially troubling to TRO has been the reaction of the media, civil society, the government and the law enforcement authorities to the two kidnappings TRO has been the victim of this past week."
"The question, however distasteful must be asked, “Would all of these actors’ responses be the same had Sarvodaya, Sewalanka or any other “southern” NGO been the victim of these crimes.” We are all registered under the same Social Services Act."
Arjun Ethirveerasingam, TRO Project Development Manager, Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation, Colombo 3 February 2006