BindunuwewA Massacre - 24 October 2000
Tamil Detainees murdered in custody, yet again...
AFP reported on 25 October
|"Mobs stormed a rehabilitation
centre in central Sri Lanka Wednesday and beat to death 24 Tamil
inmates in an orgy of violence that also left another man dead, police said.
Hundreds of people, from the majority Sinhalese population, attacked inmates
with knives, sticks and stones, police said...
State radio said the inmates had tried to take over the facility on Tuesday,
triggering tension, and that the army had been called in to restore order.
Defence ministry spokesman Sanath Karunaratne said troops sent to the centre
had withdrawn around midnight but rioting had broken out again on Wednesday
morning. There were reports the inmates had been provoking local residents,
At the same time, AFP also reported
|"At no time there were any incidents among
the detainees and the management," (President) Kumaratunga said in a statement.
"There were no incidents with the neighbours either."
The contradictory statements by the Sri Lanka authorities serve to reveal the hand of
the Sri Lanka security forces in the attack on the Tamil detenus. On 24 October 2000, the
Tamil detenus, after several months of detention, had informed the authorities that they
would go on a hunger strike if they were not released. The Sri Lanka Ministry of Defence
runs the rehabilitation centre. The attack came a few hours after the military, which
provided protection to the centre was removed.
On the one hand, the State radio said that 'the
inmates had tried to take over the facility on Tuesday, triggering tension, and that the
army had been called in to restore order'. Defence ministry spokesman Sanath Karunaratne then added 'troops sent to the
centre had withdrawn around midnight but rioting had broken out again on Wednesday
morning.' And the police suggested 'there were reports the inmates had been provoking
But all that left unanswered the question as to why the military was withdrawn.
Caught between a rock and a hard place in having to explain the withdrawal of the
military, President Kumaratunga prevaricated - and contradicted the statements made
her own Defence Ministry spokesman. She asserted that "at no time there were any incidents among the detainees and the management.
There were no incidents with the neighbours either".
President Kumaratunga attempted to imply that a military presence was unnecessary. She
preferred to dismiss the incident as caused by 'external sources' - sources which
she does not identify. And she then sought to divert international attention by ordering
the arrest of hundreds of villagers involved in the attack, whilst the evidence
establishes her own culpability and the involvement of her own Defence Ministry.
The harsh political reality is that it was no accident that the military was withdrawn,
and that within hours the genocidal attack on the Tamil detainees was launched -
genocidal, because these Tamil detainees were murdered for no reason other than that they
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam stated in a Press Release on 26 October 2000:
|"The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) accuses the government of Chandrika
Kumaratunga of being responsible for the gruesome killing of 30 innocent Tamil political
prisoners and seriously injuring 50 others at a detention centre in Bandarawella, Southern
"We have evidence to believe that Sri Lankan security personnel - the army, police
and prison officials - were involved in organising, mobilising and instigating gangs of
Sinhala thugs to commit this heinous crime. Sinhalese prison officials of the area
facilitated riotous Sinhala mobs numbering more than two thousand persons to storm into
the detention centre and brutally slaughter the Tamil youths with knives, swords, axes and
"The victims of this savagery are not members of the LTTE nor are they surrendered
'child soldiers'. They are innocent Tamil youth arrested on suspicion and detained without
trial under the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act. These young detainees have been
protesting against their unjust arrest and demanding release.
"It is a well documented truth that Sri Lankan State authorities are responsible for
several incidents of massacre and extra-judicial killings of Tamil prisoners in well
guarded prisons. The savage massacre of 53 Tamil
political prisoners at the Welikade prison during July 1983 riots was an
internationally known incident. The mass murders of defenceless Tamil prisoners have
become a regular manifestation of a devious genocidal policy advanced by the Sinhala state
against the Tamil people. The government of Sri Lanka should bear total responsibility for
the serious consequences that might arise from continuing such genocidal assaults on
innocent Tamil detainees.
"We call upon the international human rights organisations to condemn such barbarous
killings in strong terms and use their good offices to pressurise the government of
Kumaratunga to release immediately thousands of innocent Tamil youths lingering, without
trial, in various detention centres and prisons in the Sinhala south."
The Tamil Centre for Human Rights
TCHR issued an
Urgent Action Appeal (Ref: AE/10/10) on 25 October 2000:
"This morning at 5.00a.m. local time, around 2000 Sinhala
thugs stormed a rehabilitation centre in Bindunuwewa, housing more than 50
Tamil detainees, wielding knives, machetes, axes and iron rods. They hacked to
death 24 defenceless Tamil political detainees and then set fire to the whole
centre. 16 detainees were seriously wounded and a further seven were injured.
20 detainees are still missing! Bindunuwewa is in Bandarawela district, in the
central part of Sri Lanka.
The police on duty took no serious action to stop the
violence. They called the army base, 15km away. By the time the (army)
"rescue team" arrived, two hours later, the horrific incident was
over. The BBC reported defence forces as saying that the incident could not
have been carried out without the tacit consent of the security forces.
Recently, posters have been displayed prominently in the area inciting racial
hatred and violence against the Tamils.
The centre was run by the National Youth Service Council. The
young Tamil people housed there have been arbitrarily arrested under the
draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Regulations. Thousands
of such arrests take place in the south of the island. Human Rights
organisations have denounced the PTA and ERs as facilitating torture and the
violations of non-derogable rights such as the right to life.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Sri
Lanka acceded in 1980, states in Article 9(2) that persons arrested should
receive prompt notification of reason for arrest and any charges made against
them. Article 9(3) states that they should be promptly brought before a judge
and brought to trial or released. ER20, the Emergency regulation pertaining to
Rehabilitation orders grossly and massively contravenes both these
international human rights standards.
The Tamil youths who were in the centre were mostly under 19
years old. These detainees, arrested under the PTA had been planning to hold a
hunger strike demanding that they be either charged or released...."