COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — A Sri Lankan court on Wednesday ordered the detention of the country’s top military officer for investigation in connection with the abduction and disappearance of 11 young people, including ethnic minority Tamils, during the country’s civil war that ended nine years ago.
Fort Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake ordered that Chief of Defense Staff Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne be held until Dec. 5, saying he could obstruct the investigation due to the key post he holds. Wijegunaratne was the former chief of the navy.
Wijegunaratne has been accused of giving refuge to former navy Lieutenant Commander Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi, who is the main suspect in the abduction of the 11 young people in 2008-2009. They are believed to have been murdered while being held for ransom at a naval base.
Wijegunaratne is also accused of helping Hettiarachchi evade police. Hettiarachchi was arrested in August, and several other navy troops have also been detained in the alleged scheme to make money.
A large number of people were reported missing during 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 commission has received 20,000 complaints. Ethnic Tamil leaders have said that more than 4,000 Tamils were reported missing in the war, and the government says most are probably dead.
According to U.N. estimates, up to 100,000 people were killed in the war. 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.