Sri Lanka: President urged to retry acquitted suspects in Tamil massacre

Survivors of a twenty-year-old massacre urged the president of Sri Lanka to reopen the case against accused army officers released by courts.

Villagers of Kumarapuram in the eastern district of Trincomalee handed over an appeal to President Maithripala Sirisena requesting the government to appeal against the court decision that acquitted a group of ex-military men of killing 24 Tamils and injuring another 26.

An all Sinhala jury unanimously decided that Corporals SG Nishantha, NM Ajith Sisira Kumara, MP Kapila Darshana, HM Abeysinghe, PP Upasena and HM Abeyratne were not guilty for the massacre on 11 February 1996. Anuradhapura High Court Judge Manjula Thilakaratne had directed the jury for an acquittal, Senior Lawyer KS Ratnavale who has been appearing for the victims since 1996 told JDS.

Denial of justice

Members of the affected families handed over their appeal to President Sirisena on 29 Friday when he declared open a new wing in the Muttur courts, Trincomalee.

"The president is attending the inauguration of a house of justice. We are also seeking justice that has been denied by courts," a petitioner who had lost seven of her family members in the massacre told journalists. "It is important to note, the dead included six women, five men and 13 children. Out of the women dead, there was a nine months’ pregnant mother and a 16-year- old girl, killed after being raped. The body of the raped victim was recovered by villagers the following morning," recalled the petition to President.

'Death to Tamils'

The group of soldiers from Dehiwatta army camp accompanied by home guards had carried out the atrocity following the death of two soldiers found dead with gunshot injuries at the 58th milepost junction on the Killiveddy-Muttur road, which leads to the Kumarapuram village.

'Death to Tamils' the soldiers were shouting according to reports by Amnesty International and Peace Brigades International.

Survivors have identified the army officers as the perpetrators who broke into their homes and opened fire. 101 charges were filed against each of the former military men and over forty eyewitnesses recorded, said Lawyer Ratnavale.

In 2005, while informing courts that all material evidence including suspect weapons stored at the Government Analyst office in Colombo had been destroyed in a fire in 2004, the attorney general’s department said that it will proceed with the case on eyewitness accounts.

However, ten years later, the all Sinhala jury sitting in the Sinhala majority Anuradhapura city unanimously acquitted the accused on the grounds that they cannot be prosecuted based solely on eyewitness accounts.

Avoiding a Tamil judge

The case had been taken up the Muthur Magistrate’s Court 17 times and 3 times at the High Court, Trincomalee.

In 2006 an order was issued by the Court of Appeal to transfer the case to the High Court in Sinhala dominated Anuradhapura quoting security of the accused.

While the Sinhala soldiers were quite safe in Trincomalee which is home to a massive naval base in addition to other military and police installations, victims were not given the opportunity to object to the transfer when the application was made, says Lawyer Ratnavale.

“The accused apparently wanted to avoid a Tamil judge in Trincomalee possibly directing the jury for a conviction,” he told JDS.

The petition to president Sirisena calls for the attorney general be directed to appeal against the judgement and retry the accused before a Trial-at- Bar in addition to taking steps to grant comprehensive compensation to the victims’ families.

The list of Kumarapuram massacre victims:

1. Subiah Savirajah male age 76
2. Kinnan Kovinthan male age 72
3. Sivakkolunthu Sinnadurai male age 56
4. Vadivelu Nadarajah male age 22
5. Sundaralingam Luxmy female age 35
6. Arunasalam Kamaladevy female age 35
7. Alahuthurai Parames female age 30
8. Subramaniam Pakkiyam female age 30
9. Arumaithurai Vallipillai female age 28
10. Selladurai Pakkiyam female age 26
11. Anandan Annamah female age 26
12. Thurairajah Karunakaran young boy age 15
13. Arumaidurai Santhyaluxmy young girl age 15
14. Kanakarajah Subashinirajah young boy age 15
15. Vinayakamoorthy Suthaharan young boy age 14
16. Ramajeyam Kamaleswari young girl age 13
17. Thangavel Kala young girl age 12
18. Shanmuganathan Nizandan young boy age 11
19. Sundaralingam Pirabaharan young boy age 11
20. Amirthalingam Rasanighandi young girl age 10
21. Theepan Patiny young girl age 09
22. Sivapakiyam Thiraiyampan infant girl age 06
23. Pakkkiyarajah Vasanthini infant girl age 06
24. Sundaralingam Subasini infant girl age 03




Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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