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Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01
International Appeal launched on the Chemmani mass grave investigation...
25 September 1998
Mass Graves in Chemmani, Jaffna (Sri Lanka)
This is an international appeal on the Chemmani mass grave investigation. Please circulate it among those who will be inclined to sign this appeal. If you wish to sign this appeal please send an email to: [email protected]. with subject heading "Signing letter on Mass graves in Chemmani, Jaffna"
This letter with the collected signatures will be sent to United Nations Office, Commonwealth Secretariat and the Foreign Affairs Ministry in South Africa, United Kingdon, United States, Canada, India, Australia and New Zealand. It will also be sent to widely read international news magazines including TIME, ECONOMIST and INDIA TODAY requesting them to write a feature article on the subject. It will be sent to the President of Sri Lanka without the email signatures.
Thank you, N Malathy
Mass Graves in Chemmani, Jaffna (Sri Lanka)
Tamil civilians in the north-east of Sri Lanka have for many years been forced to live in conditions where their right to life is compromised by the Sri Lankan armed forces. Furthermore, it has been widely reported that the armed forces enjoy a culture of impunity when carrying out any such human rights violations. This culture of impunity has serious implications for the investigation of the recent Chemmani mass grave allegation. For this reason we contend that the international community has a vital role to play in ensuring the investigation is just and proper.
To substantiate our contention we begin by outlining the development of events over the last two months in relation to the disappearances of Tamil civilians in Jaffna, Sri Lanka.
November 1997: Amnesty International reports that 600 people have disappeared in Jaffna during the period 1996-1997 [1-AI]. A United States Country report notes that these people disappeared after security forces took them into custody.
January 1998: Sri Lanka's Human Rights Commission starts work in Jaffna to probe into these disappearances. As of today again no one has been publicly identified as responsible [2-AI].
3 July 1998: Corporal Somaratne Rajapakse, a soldier convicted of rape and murder in Jaffna makes the statement that he only buried bodies handed to him and that he knows of a mass grave site where up to 400 bodies are buried [3-BBC].
15 July 1998: "Yukthiya", a Sinhala news paper, publishes a map of the mass grave site and names three army generals, Brig. Sri Lal Weerasuriya, Brig. Janaka Perera and Brig. Karunatilake, who were responsible for the areas containing the site of alleged mass grave. These three generals are continuing to serve in the Jaffna area [4-Yukthiya].
25 July 1998: Sri Lanka's Attorney General assigns the task of investigating the alleged mass grave to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Sri Lankan Police and the Human Rights Commission [5-Reuters]. A call by Amnesty International to invite forensic experts from outside Sri Lanka is ignored [6-AI].
31 July 1998: Civilians in Jaffna and the Human Rights Commission accuse the army of wiping out all evidence of the mass grave. The road to the site is closed by the army. Civilians demand the re-opening of the road [7-TamilNet] [8-TamilNet].
23 August 1998: The convicted soldier while being held in prison is seriously assaulted and admitted to hospital [9-Reuters].
29 August 1998: Two members of the Human Rights Commission working in Jaffna investigating the disappearances are transferred transfered out of Jaffna for taking keen interest in the case. [10-TamilNet]. They were replaced with Tamils for two reasons: 1) To show to the world that the government is impartial 2) They can be forced easily to do whatever the government or the security forces want them to do.
12 September 1998: Two months after the soldier made the statement alleging of a mass grave at Chemmani, no official of the Sri Lankan government is able to confirm or deny it's existence.
Allegations are now emerging that one of the three generals, Janaka Perera, named by "Yukthiya" was implicated in mass graves in the south of Sri Lanka during the anti-JVP activities of early 1990s. The Sunday Leader newspaper in 1996, alleged that President Kumaratunge signed letters sacking these three generals during that year, but later withdrew the sackings.
As has been noted in a wide range of reports spanning many years, the Sri Lankan armed forces have long enjoyed immunity from any prosecution or punishment for carrying out extra-judicial killings of Tamils. For the sake of the physical and emotional well being of the Tamil civilians living in the north and east of Sri Lanka, we feel it is now time for the international community to say enough is enough.
With regard to the Chemmani mass grave, there are two areas in which the international community urgently needs to take an active and visible role.
1. To ensure that the Sri Lankan Government follows international laws in protecting the site of the alleged mass grave and employ international experts in carrying out investigations.
2. The three brigadiers, Sri Lal Weerasuriya, Janaka Perera and Karunatilake, who were responsible for the security of Jaffna during the period in which the alleged disappearances occurred and the Chemmani mass grave came into being, should be investigated and made to stand trial in a non-military court of law.
[1-AI] Amnesty International Report on disappearances in Jaffna, November 97.
[2-AI] Amnesty International appeal to make disappearances investigations public, April 98.
[3-BBC] BBC report on the soldiers statement of mass graves at Chemmani, 3 July 98.
[4-Yukthiya] Translation of report naming the Generals in charge of the Chemmani area. 15 July.
[5-Reuters] Reuters report on government statement about probe into mass graves, 13 August 98.
[6-AI] Amnesty International urges foreign experts to collect forensic evidence, 4 August 98.
[7-TamilNet] TamilNet news report on mass graves cover up, 31 July 98.
[8-TamilNet] TamilNet news report on mass grave road closed, 3 August 98.
[9-Reuters] Soldier attacked in prison, 27 August 98.
04:17 GMT COLOMBO, Aug 27 (Reuters) - "Amnesty International has expressed concern over the safety of a jailed Sri Lankan soldier who has alleged there are 400 graves of Tamils who "disappeared" in the northern Jaffna peninsula.
The international human rights watchdog issued a statement on Thursday expressing concern following an attack on former lance corporal Somaratne Rajapakse by prison guards last week."There are fears for the safety of Rajapakse...following an attack on him by prison guards on August 23, 1998," said the statement.The soldier was among five others and a policeman who were sentenced to death by a court in July for the rape and murder of a schoolgirl followed by the slaying of her mother, brother and a neighbour in Jaffna in September 1996.
During the trial, Rajapakse told the court that 300 to 400 bodies were also buried at Chemmani village in Jaffna, where the bodies of the four victims were found.The allegation of mass graves in Jaffna raised an uproar among human rights groups, and Tamil political parties had called for a probe into the report.The government has ordered the police criminal investigation department to carry out a full scale investigation into the allegation, while the Human Rights Commission is also conducting an inquiry.
After recording statements from the soldier and his fellow convicts, police have requested the court release the soldier into their custody for further investigation, officials said.Amnesty said the attack on Rajapakse appears to have resulted from his refusal to sign a written statement offered to him by the guards to the effect that he had been emotionally disturbed at the time and had made an untrue statement to the court about the mass graves.There was no immediate comment available from the goverment.
Amnesty said last year some 600 people disappeared in Jaffna in 1996 when government troops took control of the peninsula ..."
[10-TamilNet] Two Human Rights Officers investigating transferred, 29 August 98.