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Amnesty reports on rape of Tamil widow and her sister by four Sinhala soldiers
" Velan Rasamma (34) Velan Vasantha (28)
Velan Rasamma, a widow, and her sister, Velan Vasantha, were allegedly raped by four soldiers at their home in Mayilampaveli Colony, Batticaloa district, on 17 March 1997. The soldiers, from the Mayilampaveli army camp, reportedly forced their way into their home around 11pm and took the women outside. There, they raped them repeatedly.
Both women made a complaint to the local police at Eravur. A medical examination was carried out on the women at the local hospital on 19 March. A further complaint was made to the local Joint Operations Commander who promised to take action. However, to date no action appears to have been taken against the alleged perpetrators.
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 a 18-year-old student who 'disappeared' after she was stopped at a sentry point at Kaitadi, 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, the 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.
Amnesty International is deeply concerned about the reported rape of Velan Rasamma and her sister, Velan Vasantha, at Mayilampaveli Colony, Batticaloa district, on 17 March 1997. Amnesty International urges the Sri Lankan government to take immediate action against the alleged perpetrators, and to provide protection to these women to ensure that the alleged perpetrators cannot put pressure on them to withdraw their complaint to the police. (Amnesty International Urgent Action Appeal - UA 82/97 Rape / Fear for safety - 21 March 1997)
Amnesty International issued the following urgent action appeal on May 21, 1997, as a follow-up to UA 82/97 of March 21, 1997.
Velan Rasamma, aged 34 Velan Vasantha, aged 28
On 22 March, four soldiers from the Mayilampaveli army camp were taken into custody on suspicion of being responsible for the reported rape of Velan Rasamma and her sister, Velan Vasantha, on 17 March 1997. The soldiers were initially remanded by the Batticaloa magistrate. On 28 March, an identification parade was held but the two women reportedly failed to identify the soldiers responsible for raping them. However, their mother was able to identify one of the soldiers. The captain in charge of Mayilampaveli army camp was transferred out of the area shortly after the incident, apparently as a disciplinary measure.
Although the preliminary judicial inquiry is proceeding, it is unsure whether the prosecution will be successful. The four soldiers have been released on bail.
Amnesty International has received reliable reports that Velan Vasantha attempted to commit suicide by swallowing poison. She had reportedly left a note explaining to her prospective husband that she was unable to continue to live after what happened to her. The suicide attempt was unsuccessful.
Amnesty International welcomes the initial action taken against the suspected perpetrators of the reported rape of Velan Rasamma and Velan Vasantha on 17 March 1997. Amnesty International urges the Sri Lankan government to provide protection to the women to allow them to give evidence without fear of intimidation. (Amnesty International AI Index: ASA 37/12/97 21 May 1997)