Police may interfere with rape and murder investigation
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 17 June 1997, 23:59 GMT]
Murugesupillai Koneswary, a Tamil mother of four children, was raped and murdered in her home by Sinhalese policemen on the May 17th, according to her neighbours. Amnesty International is concerned that the police may interfere with the investigation, reluctantly launched after local and international protests.
Murugesupillai Koneswary's neighbours said they heard screams from her
home, shortly after Sinhalese policemen attached to the nearby Central
Camp police station, had entered the premises on the night of 17th May.
The screams were abruptly cut off in a loud explosion. When the
neighbours attempted to go to the house, they heard gunfire and fled back
to their homes. Only Mrs. Koneswary's 2-year old was in the house at the
time - her husband and 3 other children were out.
Mr. Joseph Pararajasingam, Batticaloa District MP, has protested to the
Sri Lankan President, Chandrika Kumaratunga. He said that Mrs. Koneswary
was gang-raped and then killed and the evidence of rape destroyed by a
grenade being thrown at her genitals.
The Sri Lankan police first claimed that Koneswary was killed in
cross-fire between the police and the Tamil Tigers. Local police are now
claiming that a shell killed Murugesupillai Koneswary, said a neighbour
who does not wish to be identified in fear of reprisal from security
forces. Mr. Pararajasingam has dismissed these claims as attempts at a
Following an Amnesty International urgent action appeal and protests from
Tamil MPs, President Chandrika has ordered an investigation: it is to be
carried out by Sinhalese policemen.
Amnesty International said on Friday that the organization is concerned
that the police may interfere with the investigation. "Local police may
threaten the neighbors and other witnesses not to provide evidence to the
Criminal Investigation Department (CID), a special unit of the police to
whom the inquiry has been entrusted"
The Amnesty statement also said "A police team is said to have gone to
the area, from Colombo, to carry out the investigations or pressurize
them to give evidence that would substantiate the police's version of
events. The Sri Lankan police is predominantly Sinhalese.
Amnesty is also concerned that the CID may not be seen to be impartial,
as they are part of the police, and that witnesses may be reluctant to
come forward as a result. Intimidation of witnesses is routine in
investigations of atrocities against Tamil civilians by Sri Lankan
security forces. Sometimes the judicial system also interferes by
transferring cases to remote court houses making it extremely difficult
for witnesses to attend.
In other instances, an oppressive security blanket is thrown around the
court, and witnesses (many of whom are the survivors of massacres by
troops) have to walk along columns of vehicles filled with glowering
Sinhalese troops and policemen.
Trials often drag on, with the resultant loss in detail in the
recollections of witnesses. Sri Lankan troops arrested in connection with
a massacre of Tamil civilians at Kumarapuram village (where at least 25
Tamil men women and children were dragged out of their homes and shot
dead in February 1996) have been on 'trial' for over a year and a half.
The troops (all privates, none of the attending officers were charged)
were arrested in a blaze of publicity to show that the international
community that the Chandrika government was taking human rights
Since then, at least 700 Tamil civilians have disappeared in Jaffna
peninsula alone, while murders, rapes and torture at the hands of
Sinhalese security forces continue unchecked in the Tamil homelands.
Amnesty international has highlighted some of the issues in urgent
appeals and reports (including one aptly titled 'Wavering commitment to
In a related development, 'the 22 Special Task Force (STF) members
arrested in connection with the killings [of 21 Tamil civilians] in
September 1995 and released on bail three months later had allegedly
returned to active duty' said the Sri Lanka monitor, March 1997,
published by British Refugee council.
The paramilitary policemen were also arrested with much state-sponsored
publicity intended to convince the international community that Sri
Lankan government was intent on punishing violators of human rights. As
with so many other sham trials organised by the Sri Lankan government,
once international attention has waned, the perpetrators are allowed to
quietly resume their duties.
The Tamil people of the island have no doubt that the government is
insincere in its claims to be taking human rights seriously: they have
first hand experience. To date, not one member of the armed forces has
been convicted of atrocities against Tamil civilians, whilst Sri Lanka
has arguably one of the worst human rights records in the world.