Feature Article

A family's search for justice

[TamilNet, Saturday, 13 September 2008, 00:09 GMT]
From the day after the new year in 2006, when college-bound Ragihar was murdered execution style along with four of his 20-year old friends opposite the Dutch Bay sea beach in Trincomalee, his father Dr Kasippillai Manoharan, has made bringing the perpetrators to justice his life's mission. Dr. Manoharan's efforts drew death threats from Sri Lanka military, widely acknowledged to be responsible for the crime, forcing the family to flee Sri Lanka, and seek safety in the U.K. While the family struggles to begin a new life in an unfamiliar environment, Dr Manoharan's focus has turned to the new judicial paths available in the West to prosecute his son's killers.

Manoharan Rajihar
Manoharan Rajihar
Sources close to Dr Manoharan said, taking the case to International Criminal Court, and/or filing civil action in U.S. federal courts are two options open to him.

U.S. statutes extend US jurisdiction abroad to cover violations of international law, especially crimes against humanity, and the civil action, if successful, will result in monetary compensation for the losses suffered, including litigation costs.

Dr Manoharan said these new avenues are welcome possibilities open to him, after his uphill battle in the fight for justice in the politicized courts of Sri Lanka.

Investigations by the Sri Lanka President appointed Commission of Inquiries (CoI) were suspended when witnesses appearing remotely in video conferencing system threatened to expose Colombo's complicity in rights violations. In addition, Sri Lanka President intervened to force the resignation of a Tamil member of the committee citing conflict-of-interest, rendering the CoI ineffective..

The International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP), a group of international jurists assembled to oversee the CoI, quit Sri Lanka saying Colombo lacks the political will to "investigate cases with vigour, where the conduct of its own forces has been called into question."

Manoharan family continues to grieve from the enormity of the loss of their son.

Rajihar with Table Tennis and Chess trophies
Ragihar was an exemplary student waiting to enter the medical college, and excelled in Table Tennis and Chess. As a Table Tennis champion, his father said, Ragihar coached several members of the Sri Lanka military. Ragihar received letters of scholarship award to study medicine in Australia, a month after he was killed.

The killing took place when students were returning from prayers in Trincomalee hindu temple.

Dr Manoharan is convinced that the killing was premeditated, and said that he has evidence to show complicity of members of Sri Lanka Police and Sri Lanka Navy in the killings.

"At the time of the incident, Manoharan received a short mobile phone message from his son, who said that he and his friends were pleading with security forces personnel not to shoot them. Manoharan immediately tried to go to the nearby place where he knew his son was, but he was stopped by the security forces at a checkpoint. Manoharan testified at an inquest on January 10 that he heard the young men pleading for their lives and the gunshots. At the same time, the security forces had also briefly detained about 300 people at the seafront and made them kneel or sit, and had shut off all the streetlamps, leaving the area dark," Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released a few months after the killings.

Security Forces had initially insisted that, to receive Ragihar's body, the father should sign papers declaring that Ragihar was a member of the Liberation Tigers. Dr Manoharan refused to sign and threatened to protest, when the Security Forces relented.

Journalist Sugirdharajan who took photographs showing that students were killed at point-blank range was gunned down on the 23rd January near the Governor's Secretariat.

Dr Manoharan said until he is physically able he will continue his pursuit to expose the killers of his son.

Related Articles:
14.04.08   IIGEP: Colombo lacks political will to investigate Human Rig..

External Links:
RSF: Tamil journalist gunned down in Trincomalee after covering Paramilitary abuses
DM: Trinco killing: Witness drops bombshell on Govt.
HRW: Sri Lanka: Protect Witnesses in Trincomalee Killings


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