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Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
 
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INDICTMENT AGAINST SRI LANKA

AMNESTY REPORTS ON SRI LANKA'S
EXTRA JUDICIAL KILLINGS OF 163 TAMILS
IN MAY 1985

EXTERNAL AI Index: ASA 37/14/85 Distr: SC/PO/CO
Amnesty International International Secretariat 1 Easton Street
London WC1X 8DJ, United Kingdom
16 October 1985

This circular contains the texts of letters which Amnesty International wrote on 7 June 1985 to the President of Sri Lanka, J R Jayewardene, and on 10 July 1985 to the Minister of National Security, Mr Lalith Athulathmudali, about allegations of extrajudicial killings and reports of "disappearances" during May 1985.

The letters refer to renewed reports that during May 1985 over 100 unarmed Tamil civilians were killed by members of the security forces in reprisal for the killing of their own men, and also to reports of "disappearances" between 16 and 18 May 1985 of 63 young Tamil men who were reportedly taken away from their homes in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka by Special Task Force personnel and allegedly shot dead in custody, although government officials deny their arrest.

The letters give details about alleged extrajudicial killings of over 100 unarmed Tamil civilians in the following incidents:

- The killing on 15 May 1985 of 48 Tamil passengers travelling on a ferry boat from Delft to Nainativu, allegedly in reprisal for the deaths of 146 mostly Sinhalese civilians in Anurahapura killed by unidentified men alleged to be Tamil extremists. Reports received by Amnesty International allege that navy personnel killed the passengers, but these allegations are denied by the government. Amnesty International's letter of 10 July 1985 to the Minister of National Security gives an eye-witness account by one of the ferry passengers, who identified one of those participating in the killings as belonging to the Nainativu Island Naval Camp. (Since the letter was written, Amnesty International has received further detailed evidence about the incident which leads it to conclude that navy personnel were involved in the killings.)

- The killings of about 75 civilians, including women and children, reportedly killed by army personnel in and around Valvettiturai on 9 May 1985, allegedly in retaliation for the reported killing by Tamil extremists of an army major the same day in Karaveddi.

- The killing of at least five Tamil refugees in an army camp at Anuradhapura on 17 May 1985 by a Sri Lankan soldier, allegedly in reprisal for the killing of 146 Sinhalese civilians on 14 May. (These latest killings were not officially denied by the government.)

The letters also give details about 63 young men who have "disappeared" in the Batticaloa area allegedly after having been taken away by Special Task Force Personnel between 16 and 18 May 1985. According to several reports in the foreign press, they were shot dead after having been ordered to dig their own graves. Their bodies are reported to have been subsequently dug up and cremated in secrecy by Special Task Force Personnel.

In its letters to the government Amnesty International expressed its concern that no effective measures have been taken to halt the incidence of extrajudical reprisal killings, of which many well documented cases have repeatedly been brought to the government's notice. Amnesty International renewed its appeal to the Sri Lanka Government to take effective action to halt the incidence of extrajudicial killings alleged to have been carried out by Sri Lanka security forces personnel, including the setting up of full and impartial enquiries by an independent body into each of the incidents, the findings of such enquiries to be published in their entirety. Amnesty International also requested the government to institute an immediate inquiry to establish the whereabouts, or what happened to, the 63 young Tamils who "disappeared" in the Batticaloa area between 16 and 18 May 1985.

As of the end of September 1985, Amnesty International had not received a reply to either of these communications to the Sri Lanka Government. It has now decided to make public the texts of the two letters concerning these incidents.
 


Text of a letter from Amnesty International's Secretary General
to His Excellency President J.R Jayewardene, dated 7 June 1985

The tragic events of the past weeks, including the killing of at least 146 mostly Sinhalese men, women and children in Anuradhapura by unidentified men alleged to be Tamil extremists, have further increased the heavy burden on Sri Lanka's security forces charged with maintaining law and order and the protection of the lives and safety of all Sri Lanka citizens.

Amnesty International wishes to reiterate that it condemns torture and executions of prisoners by anyone, including groups opposing the government. Amnesty International is gravely concerned at renewed reports received during recent weeks that over 100 unarmed Tamil civilians may, once more, have been killed by members of the security forces in reprisal for the killing of their own men.

Our organisation has also received disturbing reports that 63 young Tamil men were taken away from their homes in the Eastern province by police commandos belonging to the Special Task Force on 16 and 17 May 1985 and were subsequently shot dead while in custody, officials now reportedly denying their arrest and being unable to inform relatives of their whereabouts. I refer in particular to the following reports received by Amnesty International and to the details of these incidents which have appeared in the foreign press:

- 63 young men belonging to the Tamil community, in the age group of 18-25 years, were allegedly arrested and killed in the Batticaloa area between 16 and 18 May 1985, some of them allegedly after torture. Among these, four young Tamils were allegedly taken away from the village of Ilupadichenai by Special Task Force personnel, beaten and taken to Koduwamadu and there shot dead; 23 young men were reportedly arrested by Special Task Force personnel from the village of Pdaipattimunai and shot dead.

According to the most detailed report about these allegations which has so far been published, in The Daily Telegraph, London, 25 May 1985, the 23 young men were arrested in the village at 5 a.m. on the morning of 17 May 1985 by Special Task Force commandos, and several others were arrested from nearby areas. At about 9 a.m. the same morning, six jeeps and a lorry are reported to have driven between 30 and 40 arrested Tamil men to a lonely beach about 400 yards north of the cemetery of Kalmunai. They were ordered out of the vehicles, some of them reportedly receiving orders to dig separate graves. According to this and other reports in the foreign press, Special Task Force personnel lined up the Tamil men in their custody in front of them and shot them dead. It is also reported that acid was poured over the faces of the bodies. According to the The Daily Telegraph report, between six and eight commandos of the Special Task Force returned to the place of the incident at 5.30 p.m. on 18 May 1985, dug up the bodies and transported them to Punani in the Batticaloa district, where they were reportedly cremated by them in secrecy.

According to reports in the foreign press, the Special Task Force command has strongly denied the allegations that its members arrested and shot detainees in custody, but the Minister of National Security is reported to have stated that an enquiry has started.

Amnesty International has the names of 29 persons reported to have been taken away by the Special Task Force from Naipattimunai and other areas and who have since "disappeared"; fears have been expressed that they were in fact killed while in custody of Special Task Force personnel in circumstances described above.

The following are from Naipattimunai:

1. Kanagaratnam Thangavel, 24 years old
2. Mailvaqanam Parameshwaran, 24 years old
3. Sathasivam Thangathurai, 24 years old
4. Veerakuddi Thanqavel, 25 years old
5. Eliathamby Jeevarajah, 24 years old
6. Thanqathody Pushparajah, 24 years old
7. Kulasekaram Selvanayagam, 25 years old
8. Thambimuthu Packiarajah, 22 years old
9. Alagiah Kopalasingham, 20 years old
10. Varatharajan Varatheswaran, 22 years old
11. Thuraiappah Nadarajah, 27 years old
12. Thambirajah Thiruchelvam, 25 years old
13. Arumugam Nadesamoorty, 29 years old
14. Sivanatham Kulasekaram, 22 years old
15. Kanapathipillai Nesathurai, 26 years old
16. Balasutharam Uthayakumar, 19 years old
17. Mailvaganam Sotheeswaran, 22 years old
18. Rasiah Kurukkal Sivalinqasarma
19. Thuriappah David
20. Eliyathamby Selvanayaqam
23 Gunaratnam Muraleetharan
22. Gunaratnam Suthakaran
23. Thambirajah Vivekananthan
24. Kanaqasooriyam Gopalasinqham.
The following are from Chenaikudiyiruppu:
25. Arampan Thamilvanan
26. Kasipathy Sivakumar
27. Samithamby Pathmapillai
The following are from Thurinilavanai:
28. Ratnam Jayachandran
29. Samithamby Krishnapillai

- On 15 May 1985, the day following the shooting of at least 146 mostly Sinhalese civilians in Anuradhapura by-unidentified men alleged to be Tamil extremists, 48 Tamil passengers on a ferry from Delft to Nainativu were killed by unidentified men. The Tamil United Liberation Front has alleged that navy personnel may have carried out the killings in retaliation for the killing of 146 Sinhalese civilians the previous day. The Ministry of National Security has denied any involvement by government personnel in the killing of the ferry passengers, but has stated that the incident "is being investigated".

According to a report in The Times, London, 23 May 1985, the Minister of National Security stated that a naval Chief of Staff had conclusively shown that no naval personnel could have been involved in the killings of passengers on the ferry boat, but he did not give grounds for the official's findings.

Amnesty International has the names of the following persons reported killed in this incident. Especially in the absence of a full impartial investigation by an independent authority, substantial fears remain that they may have been victims of extrajudicial killings by navy personnel:

1. Nirmalathevy Pasupathy, 20 years old
2. Negenthiram, 32 years old
3. Manivannan, 15 years old
4. Mariamma Pathinathan, 49 years old
5. Nimili, 18 years old
6. Yogarajah, 16 years old
7. Sathasivam, 35 years old
8. Yogini, 14 years old 9. Jesunayagam
10. K Jesuthasan, 46 years old
11. K Sathasivam, 61 years old
12. P Sornammah, 40 years old
13. Sadayal Govindan, 44 years old
14. N Thevasagayam Pillai, 44 years old
15. V Kanagalingam, 36 years old
16. S Anthonipillai, 40 years old
17. N Kandiah, 44 years old
18. Sinnavan Anthony, 65 years old
All the above are from Delft.
19. I Chinnaiah, from Gurunagar
20. A Kusalakumari, from Vadaliadaippu
21. Sasikala Thanapalasingam, 3 years old and
22. Kanaqammah Ramanthan, both from Koddaoi
23. C Thillainathan, from Kayts

- About 75 civilians, mostly young men but also reportedly including women and children, were reportedly killed by army personnel on 9 May 1985 in and around Valvettiturai, allegedly in retaliation for the alleged killing by Tamil extremists of an army major the same day at Karaveddi. According to reports received by Amnesty International, about 40 people were taken away from Udupiddy, Polikandy and Valvettiturai and killed at two places near Valvettiturai Hospital. In one incident, at the Bathing Ghat, 12 young men were reported to have been lined up, their hands tied behind their back and shot at point blank range. In the other incident, twenty five young men allegedly had their arms tied, were taken to the Community Centre Reading Room, and were then subsequently killed in an explosion. The Minister of National Security has reportedly denied these reports.

Amnesty International has details of 42 persons who were reportedly killed by the armed forces in the Valvettiturai area on 9 May 1985:

1. N Sivagnanam, 20 years old
2. S Thanabalasingam, 34 years old
3. J Masilamany, 32 years old
4. R Senthiltheepan, 32 years old
5. R Bagawatsingam, 30 years old

Bodies concerned with the protection of internationally guaranteed human rights have repeatedly requested that the government establish impartial investigations by an independent authority whenever substantial allegations are made.

However, to Amnesty International's knowledge, no investigations of such nature have been ordered to be carried out into any of the many well documented reports of extrajudicial killings which Amnesty International has brought to the notice of your government since 1981. In those rare instances where a ministerial enquiry was ordered to be held into allegations of extrajudicial killings (such as was the case when the government ordered a ministerial enquiry into allegations of five extrajudicial killings by the security forces in the Mannar area on 11/12 August 1984), to Amnesty International's knowledge, the outcome has not been published.

Whereas Amnesty International is aware of reports that a number of security forces personnel have been dismissed from service in connection with allegations of extrajudicial killings, no criminal prosecutions are known to have followed in any case. Nor have the relatives of such victims of extrajudicial killings, to Amnesty International's knowledge, been granted compensation by the government, although such compensation was announced for the victims of alleged killings by Tamil extremists.

Your Excellency, recent reports in the international press and detailed reports received by Amnesty International underline the international community's growing concern about allegations of extrajudicial killings and "disappearances" by members of the Sri Lanka security forces. Amnesty International urgently appeals to you to ensure that effective measures will speedily be taken to halt any such abuses. A personal call by Your Excellency to all members of the security forces, unequivocally condemning torture and extrajudicial killings of unarmed civilians and announcing that those violating the prohibition of torture and extrajudicial killings will in future invariably be brought to justice, could be an important initiative to halt further such human rights abuses.

In respect of the incidents described in this letter, I respectfully request that Your Excellency's government immediately order full scale impartial enquiries by an independent body into the allegations of extrajudicial killings on 9 and 15 May and publish the outcome of such enquiries in their entirety.

In respect of the 63 persons who have "disappeared" in the Batticaloa area between 16 - 18 May 1985, and who are reported to have been taken away by the Special Task Force of the police, Amnesty International requests that your government take immediate steps to establish their whereabouts or what happened to them and inform the relatives accordingly. In view of the repeated allegations that the arrested men were shot dead by the Special Task Force while in their custody, Amnesty International respectfully requests that an impartial enquiry be established forthwith to investigate these allegations in full. Amnesty International also requests that the government ensure that those against whom evidence emerges of involvement or responsibility for human rights abuses be brought to justice.

Such measures, I believe, would contribute to meeting the mounting international concern about reported human rights abuses by the security forces and would underline the government's stated commitment to protect the right to life and the right not to be subjected to torture of all Sri Lanka citizens.
 


Text of a letter from Amnesty International's Secretary General
to His Excellency The Hon Lalith Athulathmudali, Minister of National Security, dated 10 July 1985


You will recall that I wrote to you on 7 June conveying a copy of a letter I wrote the same date to His Excellency President Jayewardene, enquiring about recent incidents which had taken place between 16 and 18 May 1985 in Batticaloa, on 15 May on a ferry boat travelling between Delft and Nainativu and on 9 May in and around Valvettiturai.

As stated, Amnesty International is well aware that these latest reports of extrajudicial killings by security forces personnel, which allegedly took place in the circumstances described in my 7 June letter to His Excellency the President, have been denied by yourself or other government officials.

However, in view of the seriousness of the human rights abuses alleged and the conflicting reports about the nature of events which took place on those dates, Amnesty International requested the government to establish an impartial investigation by an independent body - whose findings should be published in their entirety - to investigate these allegations of extrajudicial killings by security forces personnel. Such a body should also investigate reports that dozens of young men in the Batticaloa area, reported to have been arrested by Special Task Force personnel, have "disappeared", officials now reportedly denying knowledge of their arrest or whereabouts.

To Amnesty International's knowledge no such impartial investigation by a body independent of the government has been carried out into any of the reports referred to in my 7 June letter. The absence of government initiatives to establish such type of investigations, can only increase concern that extrajudicial killings may have occurred.

Given the nature of the concern expressed by Amnesty International, our organization was surprised to note an observation you are reported to have made in the Island on 16 June 1985. Asked about reports by Amnesty International of killings in Valvettiturai and Delft, referred to above, you are reported to have replied that

"Amnesty International is well known as an organization that rushed to print without a judicious examination of the facts......"

In respect of the allegations, described in detail in our 7 June letter to His Excellency the President, that in Valvettiturai 25 young men were taken with their hands tied to a community room and killed in an explosion by army personnel you have reportedly stated "Nobody has made a complaint". In respect of the events in Delft described on pages 3 and 4 of Amnesty International's 7 June letter to His Excellency the President, you are in the same Island article of 16 June reported as saying that "There is no evidence to show who was responsible".

Amnesty International welcomes recent assurances given by His Excellency the President and also reported, in the same Island article, to have been given by yourself, that "If a crime has been committed, it has to be investigated." May I respectfully again suggest that such investigations be conducted impartially by an independent body and that the details given in Amnesty International's 7 June letter to His Excellency the President be made the subject of such an investigation.

In respect of the allegations that navy personnel may have been responsible for the killings of unarmed Tamil passengers travelling on 15 May on a ferry boat between Delft and Nainativu, I would like to draw your attention to the account, which Amnesty International received after writing to His Excellency the President, of a survivor who gave details of how the killings took place and identified one of those participating in the killings as belonging to the Nainativu Island Naval Camp. According to this account:

"We boarded the government launch "Kumudini" at about 7.45 a.m. on 15 May 1985...........
On the said day when the boat had proceeded towards Nainativu Island for about half an hour, it was ordered stopped by some men who came in a fibre glass boat. About six men boarded "Kumudini" while about two remained in the fibre glass boat which they tied on to "Kumudini". The six men who boarded "Kumudini" had rifles as are carried by naval and army personnel. All of them were dressed variously in blue longs or shorts and T-shirts. However, the blue longs and shorts worn by them made me realise that these men were navy personnel.

All the passengers and crew were ordered to enter the forepart of the boat and ordered below deck there, leaving the aft section and the driving cabin completely free. All the pasenqers thus forced into the aft section were made to repeatedly shout out their names, status, locality and where bound to. One man pointing out a gun shouted out such an order in broken Tamil. If anybody lowered his voice the man would threaten to shoot him unless he raised his voice. As the passengers were made to shout in this manner, one from the crowd of passengers was called at a time and led into the aft section.

I nor the others in the fore section knew what was happening to each person who was led away in this manner owing to the din created by the forced shouting of passengers. After about 12 persons had been called into the aft section in this manner we heard the report of a gun and I saw a body falling overboard and being washed alongside the boat. I was able to see this as I was standing...........

When it came to my turn I went towards the aft section. On approaching it I saw blood all over and the cut pieces of human bodies. At this juncture I shouted and refused to move. I was then hit on the head and I fell. I felt that I was dragged and cut on my head by some kind of a hatchet. I received further injuries on my stomach and legs and fell between the boards of the bottom of the boat. I pretended to be dead and lay there. I felt further bodies falling over mine and the cries of distress of men and women.

About 45 minutes later I heard the fibre glass boat being started and going away...... Of the men who were engaged in this attack I was able to identify one of them as a navy personnel whom I have seen in the said area and is from Nainativu Island Naval Camp."

You may recall that Amnesty International has repeatedly commented on the fact that the government has announced that disciplinary action has been taken in respect of service personnel allegedly responsible for human rights violations, and in the Island report of 16 June 1985 you are quoted as saying that disciplinary action has been taken against 300 service personnel, who had their services terminated. In that context Amnesty International would greatly appreciate receiving details of individuals against whom such action has been taken, on what date they were dismissed, and, if possible, would like to be informed of the reasons for their dismissal.

However, as is clear from the latest allegations of human rights violations detailed in my letter of 7 June to His Excellency the President, in spite of the measures taken by the government so far, allegations of many extrajudicial killings continue to be made. In line with its experiences in other countries, Amnesty International has, therefore, repeatedly urged the Sri Lankan government that steps to discipline security forces personnel and halt the incidence of extrajudicial killings should include wherever possible bringing to justice those responsible for such human rights abuses. Amnesty International has also suggested that a government initiative addressed to all security forces personnel unequivocally condemning torture and extrajudicial killings of unarmed civilians would be an important indication that the government will no longer tolerate any such human rights abuses.

Amnesty International is greatly encouraged that no allegations of extrajudicial killings by security personnel have been made regarding the most recent weeks. Our organization is well aware of the difficulties which security forces personnel must face when confronted with repeated armed attacks on their own members, but Amnesty International believes that if adequate measures, such as those it has recommended, were now to be implemented, the future incidence of human rights abuses could be prevented.
 

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