Excavations to resume on Sri Lanka’s largest mass grave

A court in north-western Sri Lanka has ordered to recommence investigations - halted three years ago - on the largest mass grave found in the country.  Following a request made by Tamil victims of enforced disappearances during the war, the Mannar High Court on the 22nd of February,  ordered the resumption of excavations at the Mannar mass grave where more than 300 skeletons of females and males, including 28 children, were found.

The discovery of human remains at the Mannar Cooperative Wholesale Establishment (CWE) site in May 2018 that led to the excavations, was stopped a year later by announcing it was only for three months.

Ban lifted

However, the investigation process on the excavation did not restart until it was requested by the relatives of those who disappeared after their loved ones were handed over to the military at the end of the war in 2009. Although the families were initially barred from attending the court proceedings, Mannar High Court Judge Manikkavasagar Ilanchelian inquired into the matter and ordered for the ban to be lifted following submissions by lawyers who represented the aggrieved.

Lawyers V.S Niranjan and R. Suwathikka appeared on behalf of the aggrieved party as instructed by Attorney-at-Law Ranitha Gnanaraj. Attorney-at-Law Purathani Sivalingam represented the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) while Senior State Counsel Chaminda Wickrama represented the Attorney General's Department.

According to orders given by the High Courts, relatives of the disappeared and their lawyers will be allowed to attend the investigations at the mass grave. Ten people will be granted permission to attend on the days of excavation, while others will have to stay 30 meters away from the excavation site. Further, the journalists will get permission to gather information from the excavation site for 10 minutes every hour.

A crime scene

Mannar High court judge, Illanchelian directed to accelerate the excavations while requesting lawyers, police, forensic officers and relatives of the disappeared, to help the investigation process, which will be under the full control of the Mannar Magistrate.

Justice Ilanchelian further ordered the first report on the progress of the investigation on the mass grave to be submitted within the next three months to be followed by a bi-monthly report to the Vavuniya high court.

On the 190th day of the excavation, forensic expert, Dr Saminda Rajapaksa, told journalists that the investigations on the Mannar Sathosa mass grave will be conducted regarding it as a crime scene.

A carbon dating analysis by Florida based Beta Analytics, on six skeletal remains exhumed from the Mannar Sathosa mass grave has concluded that they belong to a period spanning centuries between 1404 and 1635 AD. However, this conclusion was vehemently rejected by Professor Raj Somadeva of the Postgraduate Department of Archaeology affiliated to the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka who commenced a fresh investigation in July 2019 on more than 700 items unearthed with the human skeletons

Among the bones that have been discovered so far, the bones with deep lacerations and bones that look like they have been tied together were also found in the mass grave.


Related News:

15.06.2018 Sri Lanka: Ten bodies found in Tamil area mass grave
27.06.2018 Excavations at mass grave with children risks closure
20.07.2018 50 bodies found in Sri Lanka mass grave, including children
27.07.2018 “Deep and unusual” lacerations on Sri Lanka mass grave bones
31.07.2018 Bodies of child and adult found side by side in Sri Lanka mass grave
09.08.2018 Sri Lanka: Mass grave out of bounds for Journalists
28.08.2018 Bodies in Sri Lanka mass grave over 100 and counting
08.09.2018 Court restricts media coverage of Sri Lanka's mass grave
08.10.2018 Number of bodies in Sri Lanka mass grave go over 150
12.10.2018 More human skeletons found in Sri Lanka’s war torn north
19.10.2018 Investigators to take human remains from Sri Lanka’s largest mass grave to USA
31.10.2018 Ongoing excavations find over 200 bodies in Sri Lanka mass grave
12.12.2018 Skeletal samples from Sri Lanka’s largest mass grave to USA in January
09.03.2019 More expert reports to finalise dating of Sri Lanka’s largest mass grave
12.03.2020 Sri Lanka’s largest mass grave probe risks being abandoned
01.04.2020 Sri Lanka: court to rule on disappearance victims right to representation in Mannar


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