Death sentence for Krishanthi accused

[TamilNet, Friday, 03 July 1998, 23:59 GMT]
Five Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers and a policeman were given the death sentence by the three member bench trial at bar, for the abduction, rape and murder of Jaffna schoolgirl Krishanthi Kumaraswamy, and the murder of three other people, including her mother and brother, in September 1996, said sources.

Three others were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and fined 50,000 rupees (780 US dollars). Two others were acquitted.

Of the six sentenced to death, one had escaped earlier and was sentenced in absence. The Bench ordered that the sentence was carried out when he is apprehended.

Krishanthi Kumaraswamy, a student at the Chundikili Girls School was attacked by Sri Lanka Army and police personnel at a military checkpoint in Jaffna. She is said to have been gang raped by up to 11 security forces personnel, before being murdered.

When, concerned the girl had not returned home, her mother, brother and a neighbour went to the checkpoint, they too were arrested and 'disappeared'. Their bodies were found in shallow graves several weeks later. Krishanthi's body had been dismembered.

According to human rights activists, on the orders of the Sri Lankan government, the bodies were flown to Colombo and Kirushanthi's family told to dispose of the bodies within two hours.

The horrific attack led to widespread condemnation of the SLA's human rights record, both at home and abroad.

The Sri Lankan government moved swiftly, arresting the accused troops and police personnel. However the trial has taken nearly two years, leading to accusations that government has been dragging its feet.

Local human rights activists believe that the international outrage caused by the crimes and the political fallout that resulted from it may have led to the exceptional sentences passed today.

Furthermore, the activists say that the extraordinary publicity given to the Krishanthi Kumaraswamy case in the past two years has detracted from scores of other rapes that Sri Lankan security forces are accused of committing and that the death sentences would further exacerbate this.

The United States Committee for Refugees said of the Kumaraswamy case that "while the intense media attention drew attention to the problem [of rape by security forces] in Jaffna, its focus diverted attention from the persuasiveness of the problem".

Ironically, human rights activists are now expected to protest over the death sentences themselves.


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