In Sri Lanka: Protecting Peiris, hounding victim’s family

The magistrate’s hearings into the January 24, 2010, disappearance of opposition journalist and cartoonist Prageeth Eknelygoda continue at a tortuously slow pace. A correspondent in Colombo shared the details of the April 24 hearing, where Eknelygoda’s wife, Sandhya, and the couple’s two teenage sons continue to press for any news of Prageeth. The family’s attorney said he may have to press Sri Lanka’s Appeal Court to order former Attorney General Mohan Peiris to testify about the comments he made at the U.N. Committee Against Torture on November 9, 2011, in Geneva. The government has ignored the January 2012 ruling by the Court that Peiris could be called in as a witness.

As we reported in a November 2011 posting, “Sri Lanka’s savage smokescreen,” Peiris told the U.N. Committee Against Torture that Eknelygoda had taken refuge in a foreign country and that the campaign against his disappearance is a hoax, although he failed then and ever since to provide information about where Eknelygoda has supposedly fled.

The government’s attorney at the most recent magistrate’s hearing argued that, because Peiris might have been speaking on behalf of the government at the Human Rights Commission, he cannot be held responsible for his remarks and need not appear in court.

Last month, we reported on the government’s tactics to verbally intimidate Sandhya and her two sons at the magistrate’s hearing. Eknelygoda had incurred the wrath of the government by appearing at hearings in Geneva, where a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution called for an investigation into Sri Lanka’s alleged abuses of international humanitarian law during its war with Tamil separatists.

Patient and with infinite grace under pressure, she says she intends to continue to press her court case and her low-level public campaign to learn of the fate of her husband.

Meanwhile, members of the Colombo diplomatic community have been making regular appearances at the court hearings, just to remind the Sri Lankan government that the rest of the world is keeping an eye.

Next month, the magistrate will hear from the last person to speak with Prageeth over the phone. We will keep you informed of what transpires.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The second paragraph of this post has been corrected to reflect that Peiris spoke in November 2011 to the U.N. Committee Against Torture, not the Asian Human Rights Commission as previously stated.