Lanka court orders army chief's arrest in disappearance of 11 youths during LTTE conflict

File photo. Photograph:( ANI )

PTI Colombo, Sri Lanka Nov 02, 2018, 05.25 PM (IST)

A Sri Lankan court on Friday ordered the arrest of army chief Admiral Ravi Wijegunaratne and produce him before it for his alleged involvement in the abduction and disappearance of 11 youths, including the minority Tamils, during the brutal military conflict with the LTTE.

Wijegunaratne, the Sri Lanka Armed Forces' Chief of Defence Staff, is accused of protecting the main suspect in the disappearance of the 11 individuals between 2008 and 2009 by facilitating his escape from the country.

The missing men are believed to have been murdered.

The Colombo magistrate's court ordered the police to arrest him before November 9 and warned of action if they failed to do so, a court official said.

Relatives of the missing Tamil people allege that the Lankan state - particularly its army, navy and police - were behind most of the disappearances.

Several navy officers are currently on bail in connection with the alleged disappearances of the 11 people who were abducted between 2008 and 2009.

The police's Criminal Investigation Department had uncovered details of a systematic extortion racket carried out by senior navy officers with high political connections during the height of the separatist war with the LTTE which ended in 2009.

A committee appointed by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa due to international pressure in 2013 had reported over 19,000 cases of disappearances.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ran a military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces of the island nation for nearly 30 years before its collapse in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Sri Lanka's human rights record, particularly over the impunity enjoyed by law enforcement officers, has been the subject of international condemnation.

The UN Human Rights Council has called for an international probe into the alleged war crimes during the military conflict with the LTTE.

According to the government figures, around 20,000 people are missing due to various conflicts including the 30-year-long separatist war with Lankan Tamils in the north and east which claimed at least 100,000 lives.