Image Courtesy of Sri Lanka Brief
On 11 February 2010, Pattani Razeek, a former Grama Niladhari (Village Official), a former Managing Trustee of the Community Trust Fund (CTF) and an Executive Committee Member of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) was abducted. His remains were exhumed on 28 July 2011.
On 1 February 2021, Razeek’s son Riskhan wrote to the Attorney General and the Minister of Justice about getting justice for his father’s case. “Me and my family members kindly appeal to you to let us know the progress and status of the case related to my father and expedite the legal process to hold those responsible accountable” was how the letter ended. In the beginning of the letter, he said “We were shocked and saddened by our father’s disappearance and subsequently to know he had been killed. We are now saddened at not knowing the status of the case and the long delay in holding those responsible legally accountable”. Two weeks later, there has been not even an acknowledgment to the letter.
Police investigations and Magistrate court hearings
Initially there were police investigations and several court cases in Puttalam and Polonnaruwa Courts relating to the abduction of Razeek. They were later amalgamated into one case at the Polonnaruwa Magistrate Court. In 2015, the family was informed by a police officer that the proceedings before the Magistrate Court had concluded and indictments were to be filed in the High Court. Yet, there has been no further information provided to the family and it is in desperation, that Razeek’s son had written to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice earlier this month.
In 2012, the Attorney General’s Department released Sahabdeen Nowshaadh, who was arrested as a suspect and named a witness of the case. In the court hearings, Nowshaad’s lawyer has admitted that the phone which was used to make ransom calls belonged to Nowshaad. In the police investigation, it was revealed that the SIM cards used for the ransom calls were Razeek’s and the ransom calls were made using a phone belonging to Nowshaad.
Another suspect who had been arrested was Mushdeen who had confessed about the abduction of Razeek, based on which Razeek’s body was unearthed. He had been released on bail in March 2012. But his motive of murdering Mr. Razeek seems unclear and Razeek’s relatives suspect that Mushdeen was not acting alone. They believe he may have been supported by people who knew Razeek personally. According Razeek’s son, the abductors made the following demands; Rs.20 million to be paid to the abductors, that the family should provide details of CTF assets and that the trustees should transfer any properties held in their name to the ‘Nujoom Trust’ a trust set up by Nihamath a former trustee of CTF. These demands indicate that the abductor(s) knew Razeek’s activities well.
No investigations appear to have been made to see if Nihmath was connected to the abduction, except verbal statements taken from him by the police. The police appear not to have reported to the Magistrate regarding the abductors’ demand to transfer CTF funds to the ‘Nujoom Trust’, even though Razeek’s family members mentioned this in their verbal statements given to the Police.
The police also don’t appear to have questioned or produced before courts, Irshard, the then Parliamentary Secretary to former Minister Rishard Bathiudeen, who had stated publicly in October 2010, that Mr. Razeek was held by the Defense Ministry. Persons traveling in the vehicle with suspect Mushdeen (in which Razeek was abducted) and persons traveling with suspect Nowshaadh (who admitted to meeting Razeek in Polonnaruwa on the day he disappeared), also don’t appear to have been investigated. According to Nowshaadh, he and several others were traveling in a vehicle belonging to the Resettlement Ministry, then headed by Minister Bathiudeen.
Weaknesses in police investigations had prompted a Magistrate to mention that the evidence has not been presented properly and not filed according to code of criminal procedure.
What next – yet another Commission of Inquiry or Prosecutions?
Razeek’s family, friends and colleagues have pursued justice under President Mahinda Rajapaksa, President Sirisena and is now seeking justice under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was Secretary to the Ministry of Defense when Razeek was abducted and his remains found.
Last month, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had appointed yet another Commission to identify findings of the previous Commissions of Inquiries and whether recommendations have been made. Nearly 10 years ago, in November 2011, the final report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), dedicated several paragraphs to comment on the case of Pattani Razeek, some of which are worthy of repeating;
“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.”
“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.”
More than nine years after the LLRC’s report, we are not closer to justice and there doesn’t appear to be much prospects for justice in the future. What is needed are not more Commissions of Inquiry, but proper follow up on police investigations and court hearings already taken place, which have unearthed information and led to at least two arrests. What is needed is to ensure prosecutions are expedited and those responsible are convicted through the judiciary, while keeping the family informed.
Note:The author had closely followed developments in the case of Razeek and been involved in campaigns for justice. Three previous articles co-authored by him in 2011, 2012 an 2015 provides detailed background information about the incident and investigations.