Who Killed Razeek? And Why? Unanswered Questions Two Years After His Abduction
(Editors’ note: The report below is a follow-up from the last update about Mr. Pattani Razeek’s case, which was published on 17th August 2011 and can be read here.)
1. Background and key events:
Mr. Pattani Razeek was a Sri Lankan Human Rights Defender who disappeared on 11th February 2010. At the time of his disappearance, Mr. Razeek was the Managing Trustee of the Community Trust Fund (CTF) (www.ctfsrilanka.org) and an Executive Committee Member of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) (www.forum-asia.org).
For over a year following the disappearance, there was no credible action by the police to investigate the case despite several leads. The chief suspect Shahadbeen Nowshaadh was not arrested until July 2011, despite being identified by police in May-June 2010. The family, Puttlam Mosque Committee and those campaigning for justice in the case believe that the failure to arrest Nowshaadh is due to the involvement of Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, the Minister of Trade & Commerce under the current Government.
Arrests of Suspects: The chief suspect, Nowshaadh was arrested by the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) in Killinochchi on 9th July 2011 in connection with Mr. Razeek’s abduction. The second suspect, Mushdeen was arrested by the CCD on 15th July from Kollonnawa. Soon after Mushdeen’s arrest, Minister Rishad Bathiudeen told a member of the Puttlam Mosque Committee that Mushdeen’s wife approached him to secure Musdeen’s release, but that he had refused to intervene in the case.
Exhumation (28th July 2011): On 25th July, Mr. Razeeks’ son, Riskhan was told by the Director, CCD that the police had received information from suspect Mushdeen that Mr. Razeek’s body had been buried in a village in Vallaichchenai and that police would be travelling to Vallaichchenai for further investigations. Riskhan accompanied the police to Vallaicchenai and on 28th July, a body believed to be that of Mr. Razeek was exhumed from Thuraiaddy Street, Kavaththamunai, Vallaichchenai based on the information provided by suspect Mushdeen.
Riskhan identified the body as Mr. Razeek’s from his hair and underwear. The body had been wrapped in a sheet and buried in a pit about 4 ½ feet deep, inside a half built abandoned house belonging to Mushdeen’s aunt. The exhumation took place in the presence of the Vallaichchenai Magistrate A.M. Riyal, the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the Vallaichchenai police, several CCD officers, Mundalama police, the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) Batticaloa Mr. Tikiri Banda Gunethileke, Scene of Crime Officers from Batticaloa, and the suspect Mushdeen. Journalists and civil society members were also present at the time.
Post Mortem: On 28th July 2011, the body was taken to Batticaloa Hospital by the Vallaichchenai police. The post mortem was conducted on 2nd August at 10 am at the Batticaloa Hospital. Before the post mortem, Riskan and two of Razeek’s brothers were allowed inside and identified the body as the remains exhumed in Vallaichchenai. The JMO also recorded Riskhan’s statement that he believed M. Nihamath, former Trustee General of CTF, to be responsible for Razeeks’ killing.
The post mortem ended at 1.30pm on 2nd August, and the body was released to family members based on an order by the Vallachchenai Magistrate. The order mistakenly referred to the exhumation being conducted on 4th July (instead of the correct date 28th July), but when this was pointed out to the CCD officers, they assured that this would not be a problem to transport the body or in future court proceedings. Riskan, Ruki Fernando of Law & Society Trust, Mr. Razmi from the Puttalam Mosque Committee and several others noted the discrepancy. Mr. Razeek’s funeral was held on 3rd August in Sameeragama Puttalam.
DNA Report/Government Analyst Report: Samples of Mr. Razeek teeth, skin, hair, etc were taken by the CCD and sent to the Gene Tech lab for DNA testing on 4th August 201. Mr. Razeek’s son, Riskhan supplied blood to the Gene Tech Lab on 8th August 2011. Stomach samples from Mr. Razeek’s body were sent to the Government Analyst on 5th August 2011. We do not have court proceedings which indicate whether the postmortem report and the DNA report have been submitted to Court. However when Riskhan called Genetech regarding the DNA report on 2nd February 2012, he was informed that the DNA report will be submitted to court in two weeks.
2. Police Inquiries & Court Proceedings
There are currently three police cases (B Reports) pending before the Magistrates Court (MC) in Puttalam (Mr. Razeek’s hometown) and in Pollonnaruwa (place of abduction) based on separate complaints by the Razeek family and CTF. The Puttalam MC case BR177/10 was filed on 16th February 2010. The Pollonnaruwa MC case AR 142/2010 had been filed by the police on 4th March 2010. A further case B 651/11 was filed by the police on 13th July 2011 to investigate the ransom calls made to the Razeek family following his disappearance.
From 16th February 2010 until after the arrest of Nowshaadh on 9th July 2011, Mr. Razeek’s family, the Puttalam Mosque Committee and lawyers and civil society groups campaigning for justice in this case, focused only on proceedings of the case before the Puttalam MC BR 177/10. However, there has been only one hearing of this case since 27th July 2011 and the submissions on police investigations following the arrest of suspects Nowshaadh and Mushdeen, are being made to the Pollonnaruwa MC in case No.651/2011.
Police Case (B Report BR 177/10/P) pending before the Puttalam MC: Case filed by police on 16th February 2010 based on the police complaint (No.CIB 01 389 / 187) filed by former CTF trustee Ms. Jensila Majeed to the Puttalam Police on 15th February 2010. In around May 2010 police identified Shahabdeen Nowshaadh, a former CTF employee, as the chief suspect in Razeek’s disappearance. Police linked Nowshaadh to the disappearance by tracing calls made from Razeek’s phone number to Razeek’s family after the disappearance. The calls were traced through the phone EMEI number to a phone registered to Nowshaadh. Nowshaadh filed an anticipatory bail application to the Puttalam Magistrates Court on 15th June 2010. The court rejected his application on 23rd June 2010 following which Nowshaadh filed a revision petition to the Puttalam High Court details of which are given below. There appears to have been no significant progress in this case until the arrest of the chief suspect Nowshaadh on 9th July 2011. The last hearing of the case was on 17th January 2012.
Anticipatory Bail (Revision Petition) (HCR 08/10) concluded in the Puttalam High Court: Following the rejection of his anticipatory bail application by the Puttalam Magistrates Court on 23rd June 2010, Nowshaadh filed a revision petition to the Puttalam High Court on 20th October 2010, challenging the decision of the Magistrate not to grant bail. In his petition, Nowshaadh admits to meeting Mr. Razeek on 11th February 2010 and to being in the same area (Pollonnaruwa) at the time that Mr. Razeek disappeared. He also stated that he is a close aid of Minister Rishard Bathiudeen and that his arrest would harm the Minister. This case was dismissed on 28th July 2011, following Nowshaadh’s arrest by the CCD on 9th July 2011.
Police Case (B Report A.R 142/2010) before the Pollonnaruwa Magistrate Court: Case filed by police on 4th March 2010 based on complaint (CIB 02 33/175) filed by Mr. Razeek’s wife to the Mundalama Police on 12th February 2010[i]. Proceedings in the B 651/2011 before the Pollonnaruwa MC states that the case (AR 142/2010) was filed by the Pollonnaruwa police regarding investigations carried out in Pollonnaruwa into the disappearance. Proceedings state that police recorded statements from several persons including those who travelled in the van with Mr. Razeek to Pollonnaruwa.
Police Case (B Report B 651/2011) before the Pollonnaruwa Magistrate Court: B report filed by police on 13th July 2011, to investigate ransom calls made to Mr. Razeek family, demanding LKR 20 million (approximately USD 170,000) to secure his release. This case is in addition to AR 142/2010 before the Pollonnaruwa MC. Police submitted that Shahabdeen Nowshaadh and Musdeen had been identified as suspects in Mr. Razeek’s abduction. On 26th July 2011, the police submitted that Nowshaadh had made a statement to police that Mushdeen had told him that he had abducted and killed Mr. Razeek. The police also submitted a statement from Mushdeen that he had abducted Mr. Razeek in order to punish him for supporting the LTTE and that he had tied his hands, feet and face with a cloth and left him alone. When he returned 20 minutes later, he realized that Mr. Razeek had died. Mushdeen told police that he buried Razeek in an abandoned house belonging to his aunt in Vallaichchenai. On 3rd August 2011, the police submitted a report on the exhumation of a body believed to be that of Mr. Razeek in Vallaichchenai.
On 12th August 2011, suspect Nowshaadh was produced before the Pollonnaruwa Magistrate and remanded to the Pollonnaruwa Remand Prison. Police submitted that samples of Mr. Razeeks’ body have been given to Gene Tech for DNA testing on 4th August, 2011. Mr. Razeek’s son Rizkan had provided a blood sample to Genetech on 8th August 2011. The contents of Razeeks stomach were sent to the government analyst on 5th August 2011. The van (no 59-6113) in which Mr. Razeek is believed to have been abducted had been taken into police custody on 1st August 2011 in Kandy. The police submitted that so far the investigations have revealed that several more people were involved in Mr. Razeeks abduction.
According to the lawyer representing the Razeek family, on 7th September 2011 suspect Mushdeen was produced before the Pollonnaruwa Magistrate court and is currently in remand in the Pollonnaruwa Remand Prison. The last hearing of the case was held on 2nd February 2012. The next hearing is scheduled on 16th February 2012.
Bail Application (Nowshaadh) (No. 77/2011) in the Pollonnaruwa High Court: Nowshaadh filed a bail application to the Pollonnaruwa High Court on 13th October 2011 and was released on bail on 3rd November 2011. Case concluded.
Bail Application (Mushdeen) in the Pollonnaruwa High Court: Lawyer for the Razeek family has informed us that Mushdeen filed a bail application to the Pollonnaruwa High Court on 2nd February 2012. The next hearing of this case is scheduled for 16th February 2012.
Land case before the District Court, Puttalam (No. 57913): On 7th December 2011, the Puttalam police filed a land case before the District Court Puttalam to resolve a land dispute between Mr. Razeek’s brother and Mr. M. Nihamath’s relatives who lived near Mr. Razeek’s residence in Mundalama. The next case date is due on 15th February 2012. Mr. Nihamath’s relatives left the village following the exhumation of Mr. Razeek’s body out of fears for their safety. They have not returned to the village to date. Details of the dispute between Mr. Razeek’s family and Nihamath’s relatives are provided below.
3. NHRC Inquiry
The Razeek family filed a complaint with the NHRC on 15th February 2011 (HRC/619/10). There appeared to be no progress in the case until Riskhan was summoned to an inquiry on 4th July 2011, over a year later. The Inquiry was conducted under no. HRC/621/10/I – iv. On 18th July 2011, at a special meeting with the family and representatives of lawyers, Puttalam Mosque Committee and members of civil society, the chairman and commissioners of the NHRC committed to conduct the inquiry and to keep the family updated on any further developments in the police case.
At the NHRC inquiry on 26th July 2011, the Inquiry Officer told Mr. Razeek’s son-in-law, a member of the Mosque Committee and a lawyer that the following a lead given by a suspect that Mr. Razeek’s body was buried in the Oddamvadi area in Vallaichchenai.
At the NHRC inquiry on 20th September 2011, a CCD officer informed Riskhan and the lawyer that the CCD did not have evidence to arrest or question M. Nihamath in connection with Mr. Razeek’s abduction and killing. The CCD said that several witnesses put forward by the family had refused to make statements to the police. Riskhan told the police, that several CTF trustees and staff had not been questioned by the police and were willing to make statements. The NHRC offered to accept signed affidavits by CTF trustees and staff and submit them to the police.
However on 6th October 2011, the NHRC refused to accept an affidavit by CTF founder trustees M.S. Rafeek, H.S. Firdous and Jensila Majeed regarding Nihamath’s involvement with CTF and Mr. Razeek’s disappearance and calling for a full investigation into the motives underlying Mr. Razeek’s abduction and killing. The affidavit was rejected on the ground that it did not include a statement that the affirmants would be willing to make statements to the police in this regard. The NHRC asked that an amended affidavit be provided on 12th October 2011. However, the affirmants have been advised against submitting such a statement by their lawyers since it may impact their credibility as witnesses in the murder trial. There is no further date for the NHRC inquiry.
On 1st February 2012, the Director of Investigations NHRC, informed a lawyer inquiring into the case, that three complaints had been filed with the NHRC regarding Mr. Razeek’s disappearance;
- HRC/ 619/10 submitted by Mrs. Noormihar Razeek (Razeek’s wife) on 18th February 2010
- HRC 3170/10 submitted by Mr. A. M. U Jaufar (Razeek’s son-in-law) on 15th September 2010 to the NHRC in Puttalam.
- HRC 621/2010 submitted by the Executive Director of Forum Asia on 18th February 2010 by post.
The Director of Investigations also said that the NHRC was keen to continue its inquiry in the case, but that proceedings had stalled due to the failure of Razeek’s family and lawyers to submit affidavits of witnesses who were willing to assist the police investigation in the case. The officer also stated that the failure to submit a DNA report was a matter in which the NHRC could intervene.
4. Meeting with the IGP: At a meeting held at the Defence Ministry on 23rd August 2011to discuss violent incidents which took place in Puttalam following a Grease Devil attack, Mr. Razmi, Secretary of the Mosque Committee raised Mr. Razeek’s case with the Inspector General of Police (IGP) who was present at the meeting. He told the IGP that the Razeek case was being delayed and a credible investigation prevented due to the intervention of a prominent politician. He also said that there were tensions between the local community and the Northern Muslims over the Razeek case, Mr. Razeek being a member of the local Puttalam community. He asked the IGP to conduct effective inquiries into this case. The IGP told Mr. Razmi that he would look into the matter but no further information is available about what action has been taken to date by the Police.
5. Dispute with M. Nihamaths’ Relatives in Sameeragama
Shortly before Mr. Razeek’s funeral, Mr. Nihamath’s relatives who live in a land near Mr. Razeek’s home in Sameeragama, moved out of the village due to fears for their safety. When they tried to return to the village on around 6th August, they were prevented from entering their compound by a group of villagers. Riskhan, Azam (Mr. Razeek’s son-in-law) and other family members were also present at the time. Following this altercation, Nihamath’s relatives filed a complaint with the Mundalama police accusing Mr. Razeek’s family including Riskhan and Azam and the villagers of assaulting them and preventing them from entering their home. That evening the police visited Mr. Razeeks home to inquire into the incident.
Razeek’s family informed the Puttalam Mosque Committee about the incident. Nihamath’s relatives also met with the Puttalam Mosque Committee and asked them to intervene in the case. The Puttalam Mosque Committee agreed to intervene, provided the police complaint against Riskhan was withdrawn. Following this the complaint was withdrawn by Nihamath’s relatives.
At a meeting with the Puttalam Mosque Committee and Razeeks’ family, at the Grand Mosque Puttalam, Nihamath’s relatives asked to be allowed to remove their belongings from the compound in Sameeragama. Mr. Razeek’s family said that they could not guarantee the safety of Nihamath’s relatives and asked that the matter be mediated with the villagers by the Puttalam Mosque Committee and the local Mosque Committees in Sameeragama and Perukuwattan.
On 13th August 2011, a meeting was held at Mr. Razeeks’ home in Sameeragama with the Puttalam Mosque Committee, and the Sameeragama and Perukuwattan Mosque Committees to settle the matter. Following this meeting, Nihamath’s relatives were permitted to remove their belongings on 16th August 2011.
To date, Nihamath’s relatives have not returned to the village. The land in which they were living, originally belonged to Mr. Razeek’s brother P.M. Mahroof who maintains that Nihamath’s family were allowed to occupy the land based on an agreement between Mr. Razeek and Nihamath. Mr. Mahroof states that he is the owner of the land and has refused to allow the family to re-occupy the land in Sameeragama.
On 21st November 2011, Nihamath’s family filed a second complaint with the Mundalama police, naming 10 persons in the village including Riskhan as preventing them from returning to their home. Rizkhan and family members went to the police on around 28th November 2011, Riskhan suggested that the matter be resolved through the Puttalam Mosque Committee. However since there is a dispute regarding ownership of the land, the police filed a case in the District Court, Puttalam on 7th December 2011. The case was last heard on 1st February 2012 and the next hearing is scheduled 15th February 2012. Pending a final determination in the case, a watcher has been placed in the compound by Nihamaths’ relatives.
6. Threats/Intimidation against the family and Mosque Committee
There have been no known threats against Mr. Razeek’s family or the Mosque Committee since the last update on 17th August 2011.
However, at a meeting in Puttalam on 8th December 2011, the mosque committee stated that Mowlavi Abdullah had received a threatening message from number +94773863256 on 12th Januaary 2011, following a speech made by him to mark the Haj Festival at the Baka Mosque in Puttalam. In his speech, Mowlavi Abdullah stressed that the two communities must not be divided based on Mr. Razeek’s disappearances and that they must work together to defeat the elements which try to divide them. The message sent to Mowlavi Abdullah accused him of being a Muslim Prabhakaran who is trying to evict displaced Muslims from Puttalam. (This is being reported here for the record, as this was not included in the update of 17th August 2011)
On 16th January 2012, President of the Puttalam Mosque Committee, Mr. Muzammil was summoned to the office of the Assistant Superintendant of Police and asked to give a statement regarding the killing of policeman in Puttalam in August 2011 in a violent incident following a grease devil attack. Mr. Muzammil was told that a petition had been submitted by the Puttalam Organizer for Minister Bathiudeen accusing the Mosque Committee of inciting the violence in Puttalam on 21st August 2011 which resulted in the killing of the policeman.
7. Summary / Conclusion:
It appears that the police have not made any significant progress in Mr. Razeek’s case. For several months the police failed to submit a post mortem report in the case. The lawyer for the family believes that a post mortem report was submitted to court but she has not been shown the report and the family has no further information on the progress of the investigation. It appears that the DNA report has not been submitted to court to date.
The date and method used to kill Razeek is not clear.
To the best of our knowledge, the police have made no move to apprehend or question several others implicated in the case including;
- Mr. Irshard, Parliamentary Secretary to Minister Rishard Bathiudeen, who stated publicly, in October 2010, that Mr. Razeek was held by the Defense Ministry;
- Persons travelling in the vehicle with suspect Musdeen, in which according to the suspect, Mr. Razeek was abducted;
- Persons travelling with suspect Nowshaadh, who admitted to meeting Mr. Razeek in Polonnaruwa on the day he disappeared. According to Nowshaadh, he and several others were travelling in a vehicle belonging to the Resettlement Ministry, headed by Minister Bathiudeen at the time;
- Minister Bathiudeen and Mustafa Nihamath, former CTF Trustee General and currently employed at the World Food Program in Colombo. The Razeek family and the Puttalam Mosque Committee believe that M. Nihamath is a key suspect in the case and that his involvement merits further inquiry. Before the postmortem on 2nd August 2011, Mr. Razeek’s son Riskhan clearly told the JMO that he believed M. Nihamath to be involved in his father killing. At Mr. Razeek’s funeral on 3rd August thousands of those present chanted slogans calling for the arrest of M. Nihamath and Minister Bathiudeen.
8. Some key local & international appeals and statements
- The UN human rights office of the High commissioner, Briefing note on Sri Lanka and Malawi, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani, on behalf of Rupert Colville, 29th July 2011, available at, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11273&LangID=E
- Amnesty International, Urgent Action: Remains of Sri Lankan Defender Exhumed (Index Number: ASA 37/010/2011), 29th July 2011, available at http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA37/010/2011/en/60e694d6-4055-4943-ae6d-2e2c2456f015/asa370102011en.pdf
- Front Line Defenders, Sri Lanka: ‘UPDATE – Arrest of chief suspect in the disappearance of human rights defender Mr. Pattani Razeek’, 12th July 2011, available at, http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/15261
- Observatory (OMCT-FIDH), ‘Sri Lanka: Exhumation of a body suspected to be that of the forcibly disappeared Mr. Pattani Razeek’, 29th July 2011, available at, http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/sri-lanka/2011/07/d21358/
- The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), The body of the disappeared human rights activist Pattini Razeek exhumed, 29th July 2011, available at, http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-099-2011.
- The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Sri Lanka: Ensure justice in the death of Pattani Razeek, 29th July 2011, available at http://www.forum-asia.org/?p=10818
9. LLRC Report
The Report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission at page 162, specifically mentions the lack of police action in Mr. Razeek’s case[ii]. The Commission states that;
(Paragraph) 5.31 ‘Among the many disturbing allegations concerning missing persons submitted to the Commission by the general public, especially during its visits to conflict-affected areas, the case of Mr. Razik Pattani in Puttlam, is referred to here on account of the Commission’s own disappointing experience concerning that case. It highlights the deplorable absence of conclusive law enforcement action, despite the Commission itself bringing this case to the attention of the concerned authorities of the area. Mr. Razik’s body was reportedly discovered while the Commission was writing its report. Timely action could probably have saved this life.
(Paragraph) 5. 32 Mr. Razik who had been an official of an NGO providing assistance to the IDPs in Puttalam was abducted allegedly due to the fact that he had questioned the manner in which some of the expenditures have been incurred by the NGO as well as the purchase of some properties under the names of some of its directors. When inquires were made from the relevant Deputy Inspector-General of Police in the area as to why there was a delay in arresting the alleged abductor following a court order, he has reportedly said that the police was not aware of the suspect’s whereabouts and if the people know where he was, let the police know so that they could arrest him. It was alleged in this regard that the suspect evaded arrest due to his “political connections”. If this is established, it must be mentioned that such an attitude would completely erode the public confidence, in particular in the Police, and make the maintenance of law and order much more difficult. The Commission is equally concerned that undue political interference has also contributed to the lapses on the part of the Police.’
by Deanne Uyangoda and Ruki Fernando
[i] The police complaint was filed on the night of 12th February 2010. However the police receipt is dated 13th February 2010. The Police B Report AR 142/2010 states that the complaint by the Razeek family was filed on 12th February 2010. This report follows the date 12th February 2010 as stated in the court proceedings in AR 142/2010.