Justice demanded in Bindunuwewa massacre
[TamilNet, Friday, 10 November 2000, 11:22 GMT]
The Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD) has requested the President of Sri Lanka and her government to bring to justice those responsible for planning, instigating and carrying out the Bindunuwewa massacre, including those who were responsible for the poster campaign prior to the event.
The full text of the statement of the CHRD states: -
“The brutal murder of 29 Tamil detainees at Bindunuwewa Rehabilitation Centre close to Bandarawela on 25th October was a shockingly horrendous crime, which has left an indelible scar on Sri Lanka's human rights record.
The rehabilitation camp run by the National Youth Services Council has been credited with a decade long successful history often projected as a model that provided vocational training and emotional support for JVP surrenders, drug addicts and finally LTTE detainees. The officers in charge were considered to be of the highest calibre and the local community was never antagonistic towards the inmates. Unfortunately, the Centre also provided an avenue to keep young persons who were not charged with any offence to be kept in detention, including a 12 year-old boy whose crime was reportedly to beg along the streets in Ampara.
Even before the news of the massacre could become public knowledge, President Kumaratunga had condemned it and dispatched two teams of senior police officers to inquire into the incident. Several countries denounced the massacre and the UN Secretary General stated that he was profoundly distressed by the reported killing and condemned it in the strongest possible terms.
Local civil society groups were united in the condemnation of the act, which was initially attributed to the community living in close proximity to the centre. However, investigations carried out subsequently revealed that an organised group brought there in lorries and vans was responsible for the massacre carried out in complicity with the police.
The active involvement of the Human Rights Commission and human rights activists in attempting to unravel the truth have unearthed some unpleasant and sordid details which are unbecoming of a civilised society to say the least.
The Human Rights Commission in its interim report has described it as a grave dereliction of duty and attributed blame on the police and the army on the scene to bring the situation under control. More disturbing is the fact that there are persons in our society who could mastermind such an attack of such magnitude probably taking cue from the level of impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of custodial killings in the past, at Welikade, Mahara and Kalutara to name a few. Similar catastrophes are likely to recur until justice, independence of the judiciary and the rule of law is firmly entrenched in Sri Lankan political culture.
Unconfirmed, but disturbing reports have also come to light that the surviving inmates have been chained while undergoing treatment. Permission to visit those who are warded in the National Hospital in Colombo has not been granted. This raises a fundamental question whether the detainees under rehabilitation are now classified as terrorist suspects. Human rights lawyers and activists have also posed a question whether in such an environment of fear and indignity the survivors would be in a position to make truthful statements about the incident.
In order to build faith in a democratically elected government and have confidence in the rule of law, and ensure that such atrocities do not recur, we call on President Kumaratunga, and the newly elected Government to:
Bring to justice those responsible for planning, instigating others and carrying out the massacre, including those who were responsible for the poster campaign prior to the event.
Inquire into the crime efficiently and expeditiously as possible by appointing an independent body by constituting such a body with international expertise
Discontinue forthwith all forms of detention without trial.
Review and amend emergency regulations and bring them in line with international human rights standards as a matter of urgency.
Take disciplinary measures against police personnel who failed to identify and taken into custody those responsible for carrying out this massacre and also for attempting to implicate innocent civilians in an effort to subvert the course of justice.
Take legal action against those harbouring the perpetrators of this massacre.
Ensure the safety and security of injured persons now warded in the military hospital in Diyatalawa and the National Hospital in Colombo and ensure that the best available medical care in provided for them.
Ensure that the injured persons are treated with dignity and in keeping with international humanitarian norms.
Provide financial compensation for families of the victims and also provide assistance to them to visit the injured in hospitals and also facilitate such visits.