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Home > Tamils - a Trans State Nation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Indictment against Sri Lanka - Introduction & Table of ContentsRape & Murder of Eelam Tamil Women: Sri Lanka State Terrorism - the Record Speaks.... > Sri Lanka Navy gang rapes and murders Sarathambal, a Brahmin Tamil Girl  > Sri Lanka's Genocidal War '95 to '01

Sri Lanka State Terrorism
Rape & Murder of Eelam Tamil Women

Sri Lanka Navy gang rapes and murders Sarathambal, a Brahmin Tamil Girl

Tamil Centre for Human Rights, Urgent Action Press Release (Ref: AC/01/00)  4 January 2000
The International Secretariat, World Organisation Against Torture Urgent Action Appeal, 5 January 2000
Asian Human Rights Commission, Urgent Action Appeal (AHRC UA Index 000112), 12 January 2000
Sinhala dominated Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission closes file on rape of Sarathambaal, June 2001
The Rape of Saratha விசாரணையும் விடுவிப்பும் - A poem by Raj Swarnan நாங்கள் செத்தாலும் பிழைத்தாலும், என்ன நடந்ததென்று எடுத்துச் சொல்லும்படி பீபீசீ வந்து  பேட்டி காணப் போகிறதா?

Tamil Centre for Human Rights, Urgent Action Press Release (Ref: AC/01/00)  4 January 2000

"The Attorney General�s Department informed the Committee of Inquiry into Undue Arrest and Harassment (CIUAH) in late May 2001 that there will be no prosecution relating to the Sarathambal rape and murder case, as the police report contains no evidence on the offenders. Navy personnel are accused of gang-rape and murder of Punkudutivu Island resident S Sarathambal in December 1999" British Refugee Council Sri Lanka Monitor, May 2001

"On the evening of Tuesday 28th December 1999, Sarathambal Saravanbavananthakurukal, of a Hindu Brahmin family, was forcibly dragged from her home, in Pungudutivu, near Jaffna Peninsula, by Sri Lankan Navy soldiers. They then gang-raped and murdered her in cold blood. The body of the 29 year-old mother was found the following morning, under leaves, not far from her home near Kannaki Amman Temple.

As the news of yet another horrific rape and murder case of a Tamil woman by Sri Lankan security forces reaches the world outside the island of Sri Lanka, President Chandrika Kumaratunga was reported to have ordered an immediate investigation on 30th December 1999. The Sri Lankan government, it appears, wishes to act speedily to avoid the involvement of human rights organisations in the matter.


According to the witness of Sarathambal's neighbours the real suspects have already been transferred from the area to prevent action being taken against them. This is a familiar method used by the Sri Lankan government to avoid scrutiny. The climate of impunity continues to reign. It has frequently been pointed out that when the Sri Lankan government does, in rare cases, order an inquiry into human rights violations, the motivation stems from a desire to silence public and international criticism, rather than a genuine commitment to protect human rights and prevent further violations.


The Sri Lankan security forces are still using gang-rape and murder of Tamil women and girls, with chilling and systematic regularity, to subjugate and terrorise the Tamil people. Rape is being used as a weapon of war. The Sri Lankan government is in grave breach of its obligations as signatory to the Geneva conventions, including Common Article 3.

TCHR has records of catalogues of rape and murder cases of Tamil women by Sri Lankan security forces in Sri Lankan army occupied Jaffna, in the North, and in the East of the island, including Amparai. The actual number of rape cases is far higher than recorded. Many Tamil women who survive the trauma want to remain unidentified due to cultural sensitivities within the community.

TCHR urges all human rights organisations and bodies of the international community to express outrage at this latest odious case of gang-rape and murder, in order to help prevent further atrocities and violence against Tamil women." (Urgent Action Press Release - Tamil Centre for Human Rights - TCHR Le Centre Tamoul pour les Droits de l'Homme - CTDH 4th January 2000 Ref: AC/01/00)

[Head Office: Centre Tamoul de Droits de l'Homme - CTDH - TCHR 9, Rue des Peupliers, 95140 Garges les Gonesse, FRANCE Tamil Centre for Human Rights - TCHR 88, College Road, Manchester, M16 8FH. UK]

The International Secretariat, World Organisation Against Torture Urgent Action Appeal, 5 January 2000

"The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by reliable sources of the alleged rape and killing of Sarathambal Saravanbavananthakurukal on the evening of Tuesday 28th December 1999.

According to the information received, Sarathambal Saravanbavananthakurukal, of a Hindu Brahmin family, was forcibly dragged from her home, in Pungudutivu, near Jaffna Peninsula, by Sri Lankan Navy soldiers. They then gang-raped and murdered her. The body of the 29 year-old mother was found the following morning, under leaves, not far from her home near Kannaki Amman Temple.

It is further reported that on 30th December 1999, President Chandrika Kumaratunga has ordered an immediate investigation into these events. However, according to the neighbours of Sarathambal, the suspects have been transferred from the area perhaps as a preventative measure to avoid action being taken against them.

The International Secretariat expresses its grave concern over the continued reports of torture, including rape, of both women and young girls by Sri Lankan soldiers during the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka. Previous cases suggest that many rapes often go unpunished and without any remedies. (See case LKA 100899.VAW)

Action requested:

Please write to the authorities of Sri Lanka urging them to:

i. guarantee an impartial and exhaustive inquiry into the rape and killing of Sarathambal Saravanbavanantha Kurukal, bring those responsible before a competent and impartial tribunal and apply the penal, civil and administrative sanctions provided by law;

ii. guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the family of Sarathambal Saravanbavananthakurukal and ensure them the right to adequate reparation;

iii.    adopt immediate measures to put an end to these acts of torture and killings;

iv. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards.


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

Mr. Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Posts, Telecommunications and Media, Old CTO Building Lotus Rd, Colombo 1, Sri Lanka Inspector General of Police, Police Headquarters, New Secretariat, Colombo 1, Sri Lanka

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]

Kindly inform the International Secretariat of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply. Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture (OMCT) World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) Organizacin Mundial Contra la Tortura (OMCT) 37-39 Rue de Vermont Case postale 119 CH-1211 Geneve 20 CIC Suisse/Switzerland Tel. : 0041 22 733 31 40 Fax : 0041 22 733 10 51 E-mail : [email protected]   http://www.omct.org 

Asian Human Rights Commission, Urgent Action appeal (AHRC UA Index 000112), 12 January 2000

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.

Sinhala dominated Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission closes file on rape of Sarathambaal

V.Thangavelu, President WTCWA writes from Canada on 6 June 2001:

" It comes as no surprise to learn that the (Sri Lanka) Human Rights Commission which investigated the rape and murder of Sarathambaal Saravanabhavanantha Kurukkal has decided to close the file for lack of evidence. Likewise the CID too has thrown in the towel saying there are no suspects. Apparently to both the HRC and the CID it looks as though Sarathambaal was never raped and murdered, but that she simply committed suicide! 

Contrary to what the HRC and CID say, local residents claim that the naval ratings who raped Sarathambaal have all been transferred from the island to prevent identification, interrogation and arrest. This is a familiar and thinly disguised ploy unashamedly used by the top brasses of the armed forces to shelter perpetrators of crimes from the long arm of the law. 

Ironically at the time of the rape allegation, (in December 1999) the Information Department of the Peoples Alliance government released a statement saying that President Chandrika Kumaratunga had ordered a full inquiry to "report back to her immediately for deterrent action against the culprits irrespective of the ranks or status." As events have now proved, President Chandrika's order was only a ritual and a camouflage intended to silence international criticism rather than a genuine effort to apprehend perpetrators of the crime, protect human rights and prevent further violations. 

It will be recalled that Sarathambal ( 29), daughter of the local Brahmin priest and mother of a three years old child, was forcibly dragged out from her home in Punkudutivu by gunmen in black uniform. The incident happened at 8.30 p.m. on December 28 (Tuesday),1999 when a curfew was in force. They then gang-raped and murdered her in cold blood. 

Punkudutivu is one of several islands lying off the Jaffna peninsula that is under martial law and night curfews since wrested from the LTTE in 1995/96. Chandrika's government has ceded the island to the para-military outfit EPDP and crowned Douglas Devananda as Viceroy as pay-off for betraying the Tamil freedom struggle and providing armed mercenaries to fight the LTTE. 

The body of Sarathambal was found the following morning dumped under the bushes near Kannaki Amman Temple situated just 20 metres away from her house. It was covered with 'kaavolai' ( dry palmyrah leaves). 

The burial of Sarathambal took place at the Kanatte cemetery, Borella in Colombo. Chandrasekara Sarma the father of the deceased and her three-year old daughter performed the last rites. Ironically the funeral arrangements were made jointly by the EPDP which was ruling Punkudutivu and the Forum for Human Dignity. 

At the inquest held subsequently a sobbing Chandrasekara Iyer Rajasekara Sarma, 19, giving evidence said the deceased was his elder sister. "On the day of incident at 8.30 p.m. I was at home listening to a radio program when suddenly four persons in black uniform with shoes forced opened the doors of the house and entered. They tied my hands, covered my eyes and assaulted me. They throttled my neck to prevent me from shouting and dragged me behind the house ..... two of them dragged my sister away to a nearby deserted house." According to the witness, the rapists and murderers spoke in Tamil with heavy Sinhala accent. 

The medical report furnished by the Judicial Medical Officer (J.M.O), Colombo said that the injuries and scratch marks found on the body of the victim was consistent with rape and murder. Mrs. Ilangovan, Jaffna Acting Magistrate read out the J.M.O's report in open court on January 08, 2000. 

Sarathambaal is only one among scores of Tamil women routinely subjected to sexual violence and murder by the Sri Lankan armed forces. There is a long list of hapless and defenceless Tamil women falling victims to thugs in uniform. 

(1) On March 19, 2001 in Mannar, ten Navy personnel arrested two Tamil women Wijikala Nanthakumar ( 22) an expectant mother and Sivamani Arjunan (24) mother of three children have gone to Mannar on personal errands. On the way to the Counter Insurgency Unit (CIU) in Mannar, the Navy personnel started making sexual advances towards these totally helpless women. On arriving at the CIU at 11.30 p.m. both women were stripped naked, blind-folded and sexually assaulted. Wijikala was brutally and repeatedly gang raped by two naval ratings. Sivamani was also gang raped and subjected to several hours of torture while the rest of the men in uniform sadistically relished witnessing the rape through openings in the wall! 

(2) Rajani Velayuthapillai, aged 23 years was detained by the Sri Lankan army personnel at Kondavil military check-post on her way back from Maanippai on October 03, 1996. She was returning after saying adieu to some of her close relatives prior to flying to Canada to join her fianc�e. The soldiers on duty gang raped her and dumped her body in a pit of an abandoned lavatory near the Kondavil military check-post.

(3) Thenuka Selvarajah, a 5th grade student at Atchuvely Mahavidyalayam, was abducted and gang raped by army personnel attached to Puttur army camp on November 2, 1996. Luckily the sexually abused and psychologically tormented child escaped her abductors to tell her story to the school principal. 

(4) Mrs. Murugesapillai Koneswary, mother of 4 children, of Central Camp, Amparai District, was passing though the check point at Central Camp on 17 May, 1997 when she was verbally assaulted and sexually harassed by four police officers on duty at that time. Reportedly, Mrs. Koneswary was not one to quietly take the harassment and thus defended herself, shouting at the officers and demanding that they leave her alone. At approximately 11.00 p.m. the same night, an unknown number of armed men in uniform entered Mrs. Koneswary's home. By 11.30 she was dead. She died instantly when a hand grenade was exploded on her private part. This was apparently done to destroy all evidence of gang rape. Mrs. Koneswary's home, a thatched hut with a concrete floor, bore the marks of the explosion.

(5) Velan Rasammah (38) a widow and her sister Nalliah Dharshini (28) were raped by four army soldiers at Thannamunai, a village 6 km north of Batticaloa. The incident took place on March 17, 1997 at 11.00 p.m. At an identification parade the victims identified only one soldier among a total of 150. 

(6) On March 22, 1997 the police opened fire at a middle-aged couple in Batticaloa. Mrs. Mervyn Ockerz (52) who was shot in the head died on the spot. Her husband Kingsley Ockerz (55) was seriously wounded. 

Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar says that the armed forces under President Chandrika are highly disciplined unlike during the time of her predecessors. Such preposterous and audacious statements only help rub salt into wounds. There is a mountain of damning evidence to prove that the Sri Lankan armed forces are using rape as a weapon of war... 

Since the government of President Chandrika is indifferent to crimes committed by members of the armed forces in a pervasive climate of immunity from punishment, such state sponsored terrorism is on the rise. The long arm of the law simply refuses to catch the rapists and murders, except in very rare cases, when the victims are Tamils! 

International condemnation of such acts and protest demonstrations have also proved futile and ineffective despite the fact a woman is the all powerful executive president of Sri Lanka. As always the case, the Tamil people have been virtually left to fend themselves for survival.

Let no one entertain any illusion that the Sinhala racist government will ever punish those who commit war crimes and mete out justice to the Tamil victims of state terrorism. 

If anything, war criminals will be rewarded with promotions and high profile diplomatic postings. The accused soldiers in the Krishanti Kumaraswamy rape and murder trial told court that they were only carrying out orders of their commanders to bury dead bodies at Chemmani. One of the commander in charge of the Jaffna peninsula at that time (1996) was Brigadier Janaka Perera who was later promoted to the post of Deputy Chief of Staff, Chief of Staff and has now been appointed Sri Lankan Ambassador to Australia.

Since 1983 the Sri Lankan government and its armed forces have declared war on the Tamil people unleashing military terror in order to subjugate them by force. In order to maintain their oppressive rule over the Tamil people the Sinhala occupation army has committed, and continue to commit, horrendous human rights violations.

.... The basic right to life and liberty of every Tamil is in jeopardy under the oppressive rule of President Chandrika Kumaratunga. Rape, murder, extra-judicial killings, disappearances, torture etc. have become so common that even Amnesty International appears to evince only superficial interest in such crimes against humanity. According to a 1999 Amnesty International report "torture has been among the most common human rights violations reported in Sri Lanka."

Sri Lanka has ratified both the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention Against Torture. In addition, Sri Lanka has also enacted enabling legislation in the form of the Torture Act to give effect to the Convention Against Torture. But in practice they remain a dead letter. 

Today, the Tamil people are not only subject to a brutal war in the Northeast which results in death and destruction, but they are also routinely subject to indignities of arbitrary arrests, detentions without trial, rape, torture and murder under judicial custody by the Sinhala armed forces.

There is a proverb in Tamil which says that it is foolish for a man to be on the look out for a good omen while having a cat in his pouch. So are the Tamil people today. Until they physically force the Sinhala army to vacate the illegal occupation of our Tamil Homeland and cut loose the chains of Sri Lanka's hegemonic rule, the woes of Tamils will continue to multiply in geometric progression..."



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