1 April 2008
Sri Lankan rights group finds state security forces responsible for murder of 17 aid workers
A 29-page report released today by the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) names state security personnel responsible for the summary executions of 17 Action Contre la Faim (ACF) aid workers in Mutur, Sri Lanka on 4 August 2006. The report details the grisly killings, the role of senior police officials in the murders, and the failure of the government to properly investigate the crime.
Eyewitness testimony and other information uncovered by UTHR(J) reveals that the Sri Lankan aid workers were killed by a member of the Muslim Home Guards, and two police constables in the presence of the Sri Lankan Naval Special Forces around 4.30 pm on Friday, 4 August 2006. Evidence suggests that the killers were given the green light to murder the aid workers by police officials in Mutur, who may have gotten the go-ahead from senior police officials in the district capital, Trincomalee. UTHR(J) presents evidence that indicates at least one aid worker was killed by a member of the Naval Special Forces, who were present and did nothing to stop the killings. The report implicates several senior police officers, including Rohan Abeywardene, Deputy Inspector General, and Kapila Jayasekere, Senior Superintendent of Police in Trincomalee, as being complicit in the crime and names Jehangir, a member of the Muslim Home Guards, and two police constables, Susantha and Nilantha, as those who pulled the triggers.
“The evidence shows that state security forces, including police, killed the 17 aid workers and that senior police officials covered it up,” said Dr. Rajan Hoole of UTHR(J). “The killing of civilians during times of conflict is a war crime. The perpetrators and their superiors should be brought to justice for this grievous crime.”
The UTHR(J) report points to the strong link between the killing of the 17 aid workers and the earlier killing of five Tamil students on the beachfront in Trincomalee on 2 January 2006. One of the 17, Kodeeswaran, was the brother of one of the five murdered students. The report gives incidents suggestive of an ominous interest taken in Kodeeswaran by SSP Jayasekere, who was implicated in the planning and cover-up of the murder of the five students. SSP Jayasekere was never prosecuted for the deaths of the five students, despite evidence pointing to his involvement in the murders, but was instead promoted shortly before the killings of the aid workers.
The murder of the 17 ACF workers occurred in the context of an attack on Mutur by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The government has repeatedly blamed the LTTE for the killings, but UTHR(J)’s extensive research shows that they occurred after the LTTE had retreated from Mutur town. At the time of the killings, most of the town’s residents had fled for safety, fearing further fighting. Action Contre la Faim had communicated to the authorities that the aid workers remained in their compound, so there should have been no confusion as to whether they were civilians or fighters.
Rather than seeking the truth and tackling impunity, the Sri Lankan authorities, their experts, the Attorney General and diplomats overseas have covered up the facts of the 2006 killings, along with any potential association between the ACF massacre and the killing of five students in Trincomalee.
“Had disciplinary action been instituted against SP Jayasekere over the killing of the five students instead of promoting him to SSP, the 17 aid workers would probably be alive today,” said Dr. Rajan Hoole. “The Sri Lankan government needs to end impunity to deter more abuses by the state security forces, the LTTE and other armed actors in Sri Lanka’s quarter-century of conflict.”
UTHR(J) said that it hoped the report released today would open a window to lighten the abyss created by high-level cover-ups and official acquiescence in murder. These cases of the 17 ACF aid workers and the 5 students from Trincomalee, given the international concern, remain the most promising means of making cracks in the prison of impunity that grips the nation.
About the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna)
UTHR(J) have been documenting and publicizing human rights abuses in Sri Lanka since the late 1980s and were one of the pioneers internationally, in highlighting the abuses of non-state actors, particularly abuses by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. In 2007 UTHR(J) were awarded the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. UTHR(J) has written extensively on the killings of the aid workers and the five students and this is the first report to shed light on the perpetrators of the killings and also the extensive high level cover-up of the truth.
These, and other, reports can be found at: www.uthr.org
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