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Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01
Chemmani witness assaulted in Jail
The Women's Development and Information Unit ( P.O.Box 23609 London E7 9TX - email firstname.lastname@example.org) issued an Urgent Action Appeal on 24 August 1998:
On Sunday 23rd August 1998 Associated French Press (AFP) reported that the prime witness for an inquiry into the existence of a mass grave, former Lance Corporal Somaratne Rajapakse was attacked by the special guards appointed by the Sri Lankan Government to protect him. It is feared that his attempted murder may have been aimed to silence him after he spoke about a mass grave containing between 300 to 400 bodies of Tamil civilians killed by the Sri Lankan security forces in Jaffna.
According to the AFPs police sources, Rajapakse is now in the prison hospital with severe injuries after the assault by his guards at Colombos Welikade jail. AFP's sources were reported to have said that the reason for the assault was his confession in court during a murder and rape trial that: "We only buried bodies, we can show you where 300 to 400 bodies have been buried ...almost every evening dead bodies were brought there and the soldiers were asked to bury them."
Rajapakse has been sentenced for his part in the murder and rape of Tamil school girl Krishanthy Cumarasamy in 1996 and the murder of her younger brother, her mother and a neighbour. If he is killed to prevent the verification of his allegation the public may never know how many other raped and murdered women are buried in the mass grave.
The Womens Development and Information Unit is particularly concerned about the hesitation of the Sri Lankan Government in taking the allegation of the existence of the mass grave seriously and failing to expedite an independent investigation. Of particular concern, is the Statement made by Sri Lanky Deputy Minister of Justice. also Minister of Planning, Implementation, and ParliamentaryAffairs, Jeyaraj Fernadopulle who had said that the government cannot begin an investigation on information based on allegations made by a soldier who had been found guilty.
The allegation of the existence of mass graves by Rajapakse was made seven weeks ago and still no direct preliminary investigation of the mass grave has begun. It had been reported Rajapakse was due to be taken to the Chenmmani mass graves site by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on 4th August, however that visit did not take place. The national Human Rights Commission had earlier stated that there were indications that some interested parties would try to alter the topography of the location of the mass graves to remove clues or traces and it had urged the government to prohibit unauthorised persons from entering the area.
The army command which would be directly responsible for the mass graves situated to paddy fields around the main road at Chemmani checkpoint is that of Brig. Sri Lal WeerasurIya. under whom two others Brigadiers Janaka Perera and Karunatileke were handling security in prescribed areas. The Chemmani area was under the command of Brig. Janaka Perera. The only way that so many civilians could have been killed and buried would have been with the knowledge of these officers, according to Yukthiya, a Sinhala weekly paper.
The NGO Consortium of Jaffna meanwhile is said to have told the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lankas Jaffna Office that not only sbould unauthorised graves at Chemmani, be excavated but mass graves in other parts of Jaffna too should be opened.
Write letters, fax and e-mail urging the Sri Lanka government to:
i) guarantee that Somaratne Rajapakse will not be extra judicially executed; and
ii) immediately begin the onsite independent investigation of the mass graves at Chemmani
Send Appeals to:
Ms. Mary Robinson
United Nation High Comissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
President Chandrika Kumaratunga
Presidential Residence, "Temple Trees",
Colombo 3, Sri Lanka
Faxes: + 94 1 33 37 03
Justice Sarath Silva
Attorney General's Department
Hultsdorp, Colombo 12, Sri Lanka