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Sri Lanka security forces rape Tamil women with impunity
Wijikala Nanthan, a pregnant Tamil woman and Sivamani Sinnathamby Weerakon a mother of three were raped by the Sri Lanka Counter Subversive Unit (CSU) of the Police in Mannar. Tamilnet reported on 28 March 2001:
"Wijikala was screaming inside the building. I heard her pleading 'I have nothing to do with the Tigers. I am a family woman. Please do not do this to me'. Then some CSU men came out and told me that they were forcing Wijikala to have sex with them and threatened to rape me as well. One of the men tried to strip my clothes. When they saw that my son was asleep on my lap, a Policeman dragged him away into one of the buildings in the CSU compound as I begged them not to hurt him. Two men then pinned me down on the van's floor while another stripped me and raped me. I was screaming and pleading when a Policeman put his foot on my mouth to stifle me. Inside the building they forced Wijikala, who was standing naked, to strip my underwear. I was hung upside down in a knot from a pole placed between two tables, with my hands and feet tied. Then the men in the room poked our genitals and tortured us until dawn", said Sivamani Sinnathamby Weerakon, the young mother of three who was arrested by the Counter Subversive Unit (CSU) of the Police in Mannar on 13 March.
Wijikala Nanthan, 22, of Alavetty in Jaffna who was arrested with Sivamani, is pregnant. The two women were produced before the Mannar district judge M.H.M Ajmeer by the CSU at his residence and were remanded in judicial custody for fourteen days. The judge instructed the Mannar prisons officer to have the women examined by a medical officer forthwith.
Wijikala, according to her relatives, is pregnant and was raped repeatedly by Policemen in CSU custody. The Mannar Bishop and human rights activists said Wednesday that the CSU has often been in the habit of arresting women such as Sivamani and Wijikala from various parts of the Mannar district to rape and exploit brutally under the pretext of interrogation and extended detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Regulations.
Sivamani said that more than ten uniformed persons surrounded the Aasika lodge in Uppukkulam, a suburb of Mannar town, on 13 March around 11 p.m. Sivamani was staying in the lodge with her son as her husband had gone to Vavuniya to find work. Wijikala and her husband, Shanmugam Nanthan, were staying in the room next to hers. The men from the CSU entered the lodge and checked the men and women separately. They separated Sivamani and accused her of being a member of the Liberation Tigers. Sivamani denied their charges and showed them her family album to prove that she was a person with children and a family. She told the CSU personnel that she was staying in the lodge with her son. They had then dragged her son from bed to the main hall of the lodge where they were questioning the inmates. The boy was taken to a corner of the hall and questioned by the CSU men. Sivamani said she could see that the boy was too sleepy to answer any of their questions and threats.
"However, they came back and threatened me, claiming that my son had confessed that I was a trained member of the Liberation Tigers. I cried and pleaded with them that it was obvious that my son was too sleepy and could not tell them anything. But they insisted that I was a Tiger. Then they got Wijikala search my person and me to check her".
"Then we, Nanthan, Wijikala, my son and I, were taken in a white van to a place in the town, which I recognised the next day as the compound in which the Mannar CSU office is located. There, Nanthan and his wife Wijikala were pulled out of the van and were dragged into a building in the compound. After a while I heard Wijikala screaming and pleading. Some Policemen who from the building, told me in lurid detail about how they were forcing sex on Wijikala and threatened that they would do the same to me. They told me that the OIC wants to see me. But I begged them not to harm my little son". Sivamani was then raped in the van while her six-year-old son was dragged away into the CSU office.
She was thereafter taken to the CSU's Officer in Charge (OIC) Suraweera. Sivamani saw Wijikala standing stark naked in the room surrounded by more than five CSU men. "The OIC, a tall fair man with a beard, ordered me to strip naked when I was made to stand before him with most of my dress torn and stripped. I was whipped with thick wires when I refused to remove my clothes. The pain was so unbearable that I was compelled to take off my skirt and blouse. But the CSU men insisted that I should remove my under wear as well. I refused. Thereupon a man poked a stick into my underwear and tried to tear them. Then they forced Wijikala to remove my undergarments and pushed me to the brightly lit part of the room close to the OIC".
Sivamani said that Inspector of Police (IP) Suraweera, the OIC, had lasciviously scrutinised her private parts when she was pushed near him by the other Policemen in the room. She was then tied up and hung upside down in a crouching position on a pole placed between two tables in the room and tortured until dawn, 14 March. The torture was so severe that Sivamani and Wijikala had agreed to say that they were military trained members of the Liberation Tigers who had brought bombs to Mannar from the Vanni. Three days later they were ordered, while in the custody of the CSU, to sign confessions typed in Sinhala to the effect that they were members of the LTTE, had come to Mannar with bombs etc.
Sivamani said she was from the village of Ramanathapuram in Kilinochchi . She was married to a Sinhalese fifteen years ago when she was fourteen. She has three children. Her husband, Ranbanda Weerakon Banda of Matale, left Kilinochchi in 1994 to find work in Vavuniya. Sivamani heard in 1999 that he had married another woman there. She had come to Vavuniya and met her husband in November 2000. Ranbanda had then put her up in a house in, Nelukkulam, a suburb of the northern border town. A few days later he had brought his mistress to the same house. Earlier this month Sivamani decided to leave the house as she could no longer stand the squabbles with her husband's mistress. She had therefore set out to Mannar so that she could go back to the Vanni. Her husband had, however, gone along with her and put her up at the Aasika lodge and returned to Vavuniya. Despite being informed by the ICRC about her wife's situation, Ranbanda has not come to Mannar so far to see Sivamani, sources said. Sivamani said that CSU personnel have threatened both her and Wijikala not to give evidence against them if there is a case in courts."
Meanwhile, the British Refugee Council, Sri Lanka Monitor reported
(1) in its February 2001 issue:
"A member of the police Special Task Force (STF) was arrested on 3 February, accused of rape of a Tamil woman in Cheddipalayam. The local magistrate has ordered him to be detained. Agencies say that a number of rapes by security forces in Batticaloa remain uninvestigated."
(2) in its March 2001 issue:
"Colombo human rights agencies say that security force personnel gang raped and tortured two Tamil women at the police Special Investigation Unit (SIU) in Mannar on 19 March. Sivamany Veerakone, 24, and Vijikala Nandakumar, 22, were arrested at a lodge in Mannar town. They were taken to the SIU where they are alleged to have suffered degrading treatment and rape. Thereafter they were hung naked by their hands and legs and beaten. They were also forced to confess under torture that they were LTTE members and warned not to reveal their ordeal to anyone.
The Sri Lankan Navy has denied that its personnel were involved in the rape of the women. After interviewing the women in late March, Bishop of Mannar Rayappu Joseph wrote to President Chandrika, urging her to take immediate action. The Hongkong-based Asian Human Rights Commission has expressed concern that many members of the security forces are allowed to go free after committing horrendous crimes. Amnesty International says the pace of investigations into several cases of alleged rape, including the case of Ida Karmalita, raped and murdered in Mannar District in July 1999, are proceeding very slowly. Other cases have collapsed because victims or witnesses were threatened or feared reprisals.
In a fundamental rights application to the Supreme Court in March, a Tamil woman alleges that she suffered sexual abuse and severe torture for a week in June 2000 at the Negombo police station. She had been hung by the legs and repeatedly assaulted with batons. Pins were inserted into her nails and heels. Her head was covered with a plastic bag dipped in petrol and a banana inflorescence covered with chilli powder was repeatedly inserted into her vagina. She was forced to sign a confession under torture..."