COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka police on Wednesday arrested a senior navy officer in connection with the abduction and disappearance of 11 youth, including ethnic minority Tamils, during the country’s civil war that ended seven years ago.
Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said navy Commodore D.K.P. Dasanayake was arrested Wednesday after an investigation into the abduction of 11 youth in the capital Colombo.
According to Gunasekara, the youth had been abducted, illegally detained and then disappeared during the period of 2008 -2009. Dasanayake has been accused of aiding and abetting the incident.
Dasanayake will appear before a magistrate.
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Three other navy members have also been arrested and remanded for the same incident.
A large number of people have been reported missing in the civil war that ended in 2009.
Many were abducted by government paramilitary personnel for alleged links to the now-defeated Tamil Tiger rebels. Rebels also abducted civilians as forced conscripts. Many people who gave themselves up to the military in the final stages of the war are also unaccounted for.
There is no clear record of the missing from the nearly 26-year conflict. A missing person’s commission has received 20,000 complaints.
Last year, ethnic Tamil leaders asked the top U.N. human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein to help determine the fate of more than 4,000 Tamils reported missing in the war amid the government’s assertion that most of them are probably dead.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has previously said most of those reported abducted or arrested by government-aligned forces are probably dead. He said his government has found no secret detention centers run by the state, as suspected by families of the missing, and counted only 292 people in government detention.
Police have begun fresh investigations into high-profile killings, abductions and attacks after new president Maithripala Sirisena assumed office, defeating Mahinda Rajapaksa who led the war against the Tamil rebels. Sirisena, who campaigned on a promise of ending a culture of impunity and punishing those responsible for abuses, was elected in 2015.
Dasanayake served as the navy spokesman during the civil war, and his arrest comes amid allegations that some senior military officials were responsible for the attacks on the media and political opponents. Several army intelligence officials are in custody in connection with the assassination of a newspaper editor who criticized the Rajapaksa administration.
According to U.N. estimates, up to 100,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war, but many more are feared dead, including up to 40,000 civilians who are believed to have died in the final months of the fighting. Government troops and the Tamil Tiger rebels, who fought for an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils in the island’s north and east, are both accused of war crimes.
Zeid has called for a hybrid court with local and international judges to investigate allegations of serious abuses during the war. Sri Lanka agreed to allow foreign judges before backtracking and insisting that only local courts could investigate the allegations.