Skeletal samples from Sri Lanka’s largest mass grave to USA in January

By Kithsiri Wijesinghe

Investigators trying to identify over 250 bodies from Sri Lanka’s largest mass grave are to take samples of skeletal remains to USA in January.

115 days of excavations at the SATHOSA mass burial site in the north-western town of Mannar have revealed skeletons of 276 individuals.

21 of them belong to children.


Skeletal samples will be flown to Beta Analytics in Miami, to determine their time of burial, says the lead forensic investigator.

“The Office for the Missing Persons (OMP) are providing all the funding,” Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) Saminda Rajapaksha told JDS.

Sri Lanka established the OMP earlier this year to trace and search tens of thousands of disappeared.

'No room for misconduct'

Dr Rajapaksha plans to engage the magistrate overseeing the excavations, police officers, archeologists and the government analyst in selecting and sealing samples to be flown to the USA. The Mannar Citizens Committte also had been invited to send a representative to accompany Dr Rajapaksha to Miami.

“We don’t want to leave any room for suspicion about the process. When bone samples from the Matale mass grave were sent at an earlier time for carbon dating, many people said that the tests were conducted not on the ones that were sent, but other samples.”

When skeletal samples from the country’s second largest mass grave in the central town of Matale was sent for carbon dating in 2015, Beta Analytics determined that the bones belong to a period before 1950.

Rejecting the finding, forensic archaeologist Raj Somadeva strongly maintains that the 154 bodies from the Matale burial site belong to 1986-90.  A time when a Sinhala youth uprising was crushed military and an estimated 30,000 disappeared.

Professor Somadeva told a government commission in 2015 that he believes the samples examined by the US laboratory to be contaminated. He is also the lead archaeologist at the Mannar excavation site.

Relatives of those who disappeared from Sri Lanka’s north during the war that ended in 2009, suspect that the Mannar SATHOSA mass grave contains some of the bodies of their loved ones.

The OMP has received details of more than 20,000 who have disappeared from the north and the east during the war.☐


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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




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