Amnesty International Urgent Action Appeal,
21 May 1997, 13 June 1997
British Refugee Council
Publication, Sri Lanka Monitor, May 1997
Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Sunday Times,
25 May 1997
International Urgent Action Appeal, 21 May 1997
Murugesupillai Koneswary, a mother of four
children, was killed at her home in 11th Colony village by a grenade being
thrown at her genitals on the evening of 17 May. Reportedly only her
two-year-old child was present when the attackers entered her house. Her
husband and three older children were not at home.
Circumstantial evidence suggests that she may have been
raped prior to being killed and that the perpetrators may have been one or
more police officers attached to the nearby Central Camp police station, on
the border between Batticaloa and Amparai districts.
Neighbours say they heard screams from the house, and
shortly afterwards they heard an explosion. When they tried to go
to Murugesupillai Koneswary's home, they heard shooting and rushed
back indoors so they did not actually see the perpetrators. However, because
this area is under the control of the police, observers claim that it is
unlikely that there could have been any other people with arms in the area
at that time.
Local people believe that the perpetrators may have thrown
the hand grenade near her genitals in order to cover up the evidence of
The husband of Murugesupillai Koneswary, who discovered her
body, made a complaint at Central Camp police station. Some police officers
then took her body to the hospital at Kalmunai. However, no medical
examination was carried out. It is not clear why no examination took place.
Some reports suggest that the police, who also advised the relatives to
dispose of the body, may have pressurized the hospital authorities.
In the context of the armed conflict between the security
forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the main
armed opposition group fighting for a separate state in the north and
east of Sri Lanka, there have been continuing reports of arbitrary
arrests and detention, torture, including rape, "disappearances"
and extrajudicial executions.
In September 1996, the rape and death of an 18-year-old
student who "disappeared" after she was stopped at a sentry point at
Kaithady, Jaffna district, created widespread public protest in Sri Lanka.
Her mother, brother and neighbour had gone missing on the same day
after they made inquiries at the sentry point. Their bodies were
found approximately 6 weeks later. Post-mortem investigations found evidence
of rape on the girl's body. Amid public outcry, eleven members of the
security forces were arrested in connection with this case and legal action
against them is pending.
However, in less prominent cases reported from
other parts of the north and east, such as several cases reported from
Batticaloa district in early 1997, initial investigations have not
resulted in any effective legal action against the alleged perpetrators.
In those exceptional cases where perpetrators have been brought
to trial, victims of rape have failed to appear in court because of
fear for their lives.
Although the preliminary judicial inquiry against four
soldiers allegedly responsible for
the rape of Velan Rasamma
and her sister, Velan Vasantha in March 1997 in the same district is
proceeding, observers doubt whether they will be brought to justice.
The soldiers have been released on bail. (For more information, see
UA 82/97, AI Index: ASA 39/09/97 of 21 March 1997 and follow-up
UA ASA 37/12/97 of 21 May 1997.)
Amnesty International is deeply concerned at the reports of
the killing and possible rape of Murugesupillai Koneswary at 11th
Colony, Batticaloa district, on 17 May 1997, and at reports that
the perpetrators are believed to be police officers. Amnesty International
urges the Sri Lankan government to hold an independent investigation and to
bring the alleged perpetrators to justice. Protection should be provided to
witnesses to ensure that the alleged perpetrators cannot put pressure on
them to influence the outcome of the investigation and the legal process.
Adequate compensation should also be provided to the husband and children of
Murugesupillai Koneswary. (Amnesty
AI Index: ASA 37/13/97 UA 147/97 Extrajudicial execution/rape 21 May
Further Information on
Urgent Action Appeal 147/87 , 13 June 1997
Further information on UA 147/87 (ASA 37/13/97, 21 May
1997) - Extrajudicial execution / Rape and new concern: Fear for safety SRI
LANKA Murugesupillai Koneswary (f), aged 35 AI Index: ASA 37/14/9713 June
Witnesses and neighbours
According to media reports, in early June 1997 President
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga ordered an inquiry into the alleged
extrajudicial execution and rape of Murugesupillai Koneswary on 17 May.The
inquiry has been entrusted to the Criminal Investigation Department(CID), a
specialist unit of the police.
A team is said to have gone to the area from Colombo to
carry out the investigations.Amnesty International is concerned that the
local police may threaten the neighbours and other witnesses not to give
evidence to the CID or pressurize them to give evidence that would
substantiate the police’s version of events.
According to one source, local police are now claiming that
Murugesupillai Koneswary was killed by a shell, not a grenade.However, there
is no damage to the house, apart from the crater inside theroom. There is
also concern that the CID may not be seen to be impartial as they are part
of the police, and that witnesses may be reluctant to come forward as a
Amnesty International has obtained further information about
the possiblecircumstances leading up to the killing of Murugesupillai
Koneswary. Apparently, she had been harassed by officers of the Central Camp
policestation since March 1997.
Around that time, police officers had stolen timber which
Murugesupillai Koneswary had bought to build a more permanent home than the
small hut in which she had been living. She had made a complaint to the
Officer-in-Charge of the police station, after which the timber had been
On the actual day of her killing, she had had a verbal
altercation with police officers at a checkpoint. Witnesses reported that
she had spoken back when they had used offensive language with her. The
alleged perpetrators of the killing and rape reportedly had put the youngest
child, who was with Murugesupillai Koneswary on the night of 17May, outside
the house. The child had wandered into a neighbour’s house around 11.30pm.
Just around that time, the explosion was heard. It has been confirmed that a
post mortem was carried out at Kalmunaihospital, but the results are
British Refugee Council
Publication, Sri Lanka Monitor, May 1997
"Policemen are accused of killing her after gang rape, by exploding a
grenade inserted into her vagina. The brutal manner of the murder has
shocked residents and human rights workers say rape is increasingly used to
terrorise the population. Colombo NGO Women and Media Collective says at
least seven rapes by security forces have been reported in the east since 31
December. TULF leader M Sivasithamparam says the police Special Task Force
(STF) abducted four women from Sammanthurai and murdered one of them in late
May. Fear has been expressed over Army search operations in the nights.
People say some security force personnel wear masks during night searches to
Sri Lanka Sunday Times, 25 May 1997
"The barbaric rape and murder of a young mother (Murugesupillai
Koneswary) allegedly by some policemen has sent shockwaves around
Batticaloa with the areas MP appealing to President Kumaratunga to order a
Parliamentarian Joseph Pararajasingham in a letter to the President has
said the 35 year old mother of four children had allegedly been raped last
Saturday night in her house at the 11th colony village bordering Ampara.
He said the policeman who committed this alleged offence had in a dastardly
attempt to cover up the act exploded a hand grenade in the private parts of
the victim. Police had then told relatives to bury the body without
a medical examination."