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Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01

Asian Human Rights Commission issues yet another urgent action appeal on Sri Lanka's crimes against humanity...

On 12 January 2000, the Asian Human Rights Commission issued yet another Urgent Action appeal (AHRC UA Index 000112) titled "Crime Against Humanity" on "Systematic Detention, Torture, Rape and Murder as Weapon of  War" in Sri Lanka:

Rape as a weapon of war

The Sri Lankan security forces are using systematic rape and murder of Tamil women to subjugate the Tamil population. 28 December 1999, Mrs.Sarathambal Saravanbavananthakurukal, 29, was forcibly dragged out from her home, in Pungudutivu, near Jaffna Peninsula, by Sri Lankan Navy soldiers. She was gang-raped and murdered Her body was found the following day, under bushes near Kannaki Amman Temple which is nearby her home. AHRC received this information from reliable sources. It is alleged by witnesses that the soldiers who raped Sarathambal have been transferred from the area to prevent action being taken against them. This is a familiar method used by the authorities to avoid scrutiny. Impunity continues to reign as rape is used as a weapon of war in Sri Lanka.

Background information:

Sri Lankan security forces are currently battling Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) soldiers. Since 1983 the Tamil rebels are fighting for a separate homeland for ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka's north and east. After 16 years, the on-going civil war has caused more then 61,000 deaths.

Tortured to death

Amnesty International (AI) reported that nearly all of the 600 Tamils who "disappeared" after being arrested by Sri Lankan troops in the past had been tortured to death.

Human Rights Defender Killed

5 January 2000: Mr Kumar Ponnambalam a defender of civil and political rights was assassinated. One of the many reports he filed on important human rights cases includes the internationally known case of rape and murder of Krishanthi Kumaraswamy . This case led to the eventual revelation of the eighteen mass graves, including Chemmani, in the Jaffna Peninsula.

Mr Ponnambalam a criminal lawyer defended thousands of Tamil people who suffered gross and systematic violations of human rights at the hands of the Sri Lankan security forces.He denounced the torture, arbitrary detention, disappearances and extra-judicial killings of Tamils by the Sri Lankan security forces in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1997 and 1999. He also addressed members of the European Parliament in Brussels and the Royal Institute in London-U.K.

Disappearances in Chemmani - 500 still missing

The 2 December 1999, Ministry of Defence's[MOD] statement on hundreds of Tamils allegedly 'missing' in Jaffna says "In the final analysis regarding complaints of disappearances in the Jaffna peninsula, 16 people were ascertained as dead", and "inquiries in respect of 374 commenced with available evidence, but could not proceed due to inadequacy of such evidence". "There was no evidence at all in respect of 174, even to commence inquiries," the statement further said.

The Sri Lanka Army soldiers are alleged to be responsible for the "disappearances" of over 700 people in Jaffna. The Sri Lankan authorities have not found 548 people reported to have disappeared in the on-going war in Jaffna peninsula since the Sri Lankan military captured it in 1996. A committee set up in 1996 to investigate the disappearances in Jaffna peninsula had received 765 names of missing persons.

Arbitrary Detentions:

7 January 2000 Sri Lankan security forces detained over 3000 Tamils, including 200 women, for questioning. After question about 1500 detainees were released and others are being questioned. Police reveal the detention was carried out to identify the LTTE members after a woman suicide bomber exploded herself in front of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) killing 12 others.

Prison Deaths and violences

Two political prisoner have died and 35 seriously injured as a result of clashes between Tamil prisoners and prison guards at the Kalutara Prison which is located about 50 kilometres from the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo. There are more then 700 prisoners detained at Kalutara prison. The majority of them have been detained for several years with out any legal charges against them. The political prisoners have staged hunger strike several times earlier appealing for their release or to take legal action against them.

In December 1997 the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) expressed its concern over the killing of three prisoners and attacks on many others for more than an hour on 12 December 1997 in Kalutara Prison. The three who were killed and all other injured victims are Tamils. They were attacked by about 400 people with rocks, batons and swords.

This incident has brought back memories of the 1983 killings of 53 Tamil prisoners inside the prisons in Colombo. These prisoners were awaiting trials at the time. The present situation is a replication of the past and is a denial of basic justice to the Tamil people.

Censorship: Civil War Continues

To use the threat of attacks by the LTTE as an excuse for this sort of incident - rape, torture and disappearance - will only be self-defeating and self-destructive. Prisoners are killed, suspects are tortured, civilians are murdered, and access to food and medicine are denied!!

The Sri Lankan government's censorship of newspapers and TV prevents both the local and international community of being aware of this systematic crime against humanity. The censored local media reports only good news. The overall economy grew 5 percent driven by tourism and textiles. The rich and middle class living in Colombo and other cities are cut-off from the civil war. They go shopping, celebrate weddings and holidays in modern hotels. Military service is voluntary and the poor rural youth faced with unemployment is pushed into joining the armed forces - the war and killings continue!

The Asian Human Rights Commission [AHRC] has issued several appeals on the issue of rape and disappearances in Sri Lanka. Recent official figures of over 26,000 disappearances are recorded.

For detailed reports on this issue, kindly refer to AHRC's website: http://www.disappearances.org/ and http://www.ahrchk.net/

Recommended action:

Please write letters, faxes and emails to the concern authorities in Sri Lanka AHRC believes that the time has come for third-party mediation to solve the conflict. Norway an impartial country is willing to mediate such peace talks. The peace talks should lead to cease-fire, a withdrawal of government troops, and the provision of food and medical aid to civilians in the north and east. The principle of international humanitarian intervention must be applied consistently to overcome the civil war. For a long term solution, it is essential that the Sri Lankan government accepts the potential use of third party intervention to seek a negotiated peace settlement.

On 15-16 January 2000 the Norwegian Foreign minister Knut Vollebaek will visit Sri Lanka in his attempt to support peace talks between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tigers.

AHRC also suggests that concrete actions must be taken on all reported cases of rape, torture and disappearance as follows:

(A) Action against all those who were responsible for the systematic practice of rape, torture and disappearances Those responsible should be brought to trial for committing a crime against humanity.

(B) As Criminal investigations have not be conducted regarding most of cases on rape, torture and disappearances. Request criminal investigations to be conducted into cases rape, torture and disappearances.

(C) To prosecute those responsible for the rape, torture and disappearances.

(D) To remove from military and police forces all persons connected with rape, torture and disappearances, directly or indirectly.

(E) To pay adequate compensation to victims families in terms of the international norms set on rape, torture and disappearances.

(F) To take measures to help to alleviate trauma caused to victims families.

(G) To take action to stop the use of rape, torture and disappearances as weapons by the military and police forces.


Her Excellency President Chandrika B. Kumaratunga Presidential Residence Colombo 3, Sri Lanka Fax: 94 - 1 - 333 - 703

Hon.Prof. G.L. Peiris Inter-ministerial Committee on Disappearances Ministry of Justice Superior Courts complex Colombo 12, Sri Lanka Tel: 329044 or 433192 Fax: 320785


Ms. N. Font de Berlioz Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Room D-121 UN Centre for Human Rights United Nations Office Palais des Nations CH-1211, Geneva 10 Switzerland Tel: [4122] 917 3945 Fax: (4122) 917 0022 Email: [email protected]

Hon. Ambassador Permanent Mission and Consulate General of Sri Lanka 56, Rue De Moillebeau, 5th Floor, 1 209, Geneva 19 Switzerland. Fax: (41-22) 734 9084 E-mail: [email protected]

Hon. High-Commissioner The High Commission of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka 13 Hyde Park Gardens London W2 2LU United Kingdom Fax: (0171) 262-7970 E-mail: [email protected] and Diplomatic representatives of the Sri Lanka accredited to your country.

Please remember to send a copy of your letter to: [email protected]  

Urgent Appeal Programme Tel: +(852)-2698-6339 Asian Human Rights Commission Fax:+(852)-2698-6367 Unit D, 7 Floor, 16 Argyle Str. Mongkok Commercial Centre Kowloon, Hong Kong , SAR CHINA AHRC UA Email: [email protected]  Coordinator: Email: [email protected]  

AHRC UA operates an urgent appeal hotline on human rights violations within Asia. Please send us your appeals and complaints by email: [email protected] or fax: [852] - 2698 6367 . Please visit the Asian Human Rights Commission's website: http://www.ahrchk.net/



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