"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
RAPE AS WEAPON OF WAR
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
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)
Please write to the authorities of Sri Lanka urging them
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:
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:
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 :
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.
Sri Lankan security forces are currently battling Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam (LTTE) soldiers.
Since 1983 the Tamil rebels are fighting
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
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
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
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 fiancée. 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
If anything, war criminals will be rewarded with promotions and high profile
diplomatic postings. The accused soldiers in the
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
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
.... The basic right to life and liberty of every Tamil is in jeopardy under the
oppressive rule of President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
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
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
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..."