Asian Centre for Human Rights

Dedicated to promotion and protection of human rights in Asia

 
ACHR PRESS RELEASE
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ACHR Index: PR/SL/03/05
25 October 2005

Confidential Sri Lankan Presidential Commission of
Inquiry into Bindunuwewa Massacre made public

ACHR demands implementation of the recommendations

Women’s Press Corp, New Delhi:  Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) at a press conference today released confidential “Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Bindunuwewa Massacre of 25 October 2000” in which 28 Tamil youth between the ages of 14-23 years were massacred while approximately 14 other Tamil youth were seriously injured by a Sinhala mob and the Sri Lankan police.  The Commission headed by Justice PHK Kulatilaka was set up on 8 March 2001 and its report was submitted in early 2002. Although President Kumaratunga’s term as President comes to an end soon, the report has not yet been made public.

ACHR demanded that the report of Justice PHK Kulatilaka Presidential Commission of Inquiry be made public and disciplinary action against the eight police officers be initiated for, what the Commission termed as, “indefensible inaction and attitude at the time of the incident”.

“It is a shame that then Headquarters Inspector Seneviratne who was indicted by the Presidential Commission, instead of being taken to task has been rewarded and is now the Senior Superintendent of Police of Traffic at Fort Police Station” – stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of ACHR.

Findings of the Justice Kulatilaka Presidential Commission of Inquiry:

President Chandrika Kumaratunga had no interest to prosecute the culprits. Even before the start of any inquiry, she blamed the massacre on the “external forces”. Therefore, Justice P. H. K. Kulatilaka was mandated to investigate extraneous issues but not to find the truth and prosecute the culprits.

The Presidential Commission of Inquiry indicated the organised nature of the massacre. A section of the villagers were drawn to the Bindunuwewa Rehabilitation Centre and there was “also evidence that crowds were transported from outside to the Vidyapeetaya playground in buses, private vans and also three wheelers”. Posters like “why is the big man feeding the tigers with milk”, “Tigers’ flesh to our dogs” were displayed in and around Bindunuwewa one day before the massacre.

Justice Kulatilaka concluded that the police knew about the impending massacre as the crowd gathered to attack the camp and it was  “a lapse on the part of the ASP Dayaratne and HQI Seneviratne by their failure to send sufficient reinforcement to guard the perimeter.”

Among others, Justice Kulatilaka further concluded that: 

“No meaningful steps had been taken by the police to prevent the mob from … coming into the Rehabilitation Centre.

Once the mob invaded the Centre, acts of setting fire to the buildings, attack on the inmates and the massacre of inmates continued unabated while the police were just looking on.

The police had opened fire on the unarmed inmates who were running for protection towards the police trucks parked outside the main gate, thereby causing death of one inmate and injuring two others.

The police (60 armed personnel) had failed to arrest any offender even though the assailants were seen moving about freely carrying weapons while the policemen were standing nearby” and that evidence was destroyed.

Eight police officers who were held guilty are: (1) A.W. Dayaratne, Assistant Superintendent of Police; 2) R.M.T.K. Jayantha Seneviratne, Chief Inspector, 3) S.J. Karunasena, Inspector, 4) N.G.S. Walpola, Sub Inspector (SI), 5) P. Ratnayake, SI, 6) K.W.C.N. Abeynarayana, SI, 7) Capt. Y.K. Abeyratne former Officer-in-Charge, Bindunuwewa Rehabilitation Centre and 8) Lt. P. Abeyratne, Second Officer, Bindunuwewa Rehabilitation Centre.

The judicial biases:

Commenting on the acquittal of the four accused of the Bindunuwewa massacre by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka on 21 May 2005, ACHR Director, Mr Suhas Chakma stated: “The entire trial was orchestrated to exonerate the culprits. The Attorney General did not file indictments against any senior police officers including ASP Dayaratne and HQI Seneviratne who were indicted both by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry and the National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka”.

The Attorney General filed wrong indictments by clubbing the accused civilians and the policemen together and charged them for “unlawful assembly”. It was a case of mixing oranges with apples, as the police were responsible for taking appropriate actions against members of the unlawful assembly and their criminal actions. It was necessary for the prosecution to establish the organised nature of the massacre to establish the fact that the police shared the common objective of the “unlawful assembly” of the civilians. But prosecution never investigated the organised nature of the massacre despite the findings of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry. Not surprisingly all accused were acquitted.

The Supreme Court went to the extent of blaming the Tamil inmates for inviting the wrath from the Sinhalese crowd, who were identified as “peaceful Sathyagrahis” by the Court. “The fact that 60 fully armed policemen could not arrest a single socalled peaceful Satyagrahi speaks itself about the organised massacre and complicity between the mob and the police.” – stated Mr Chakma.

From day one, evidence was destroyed systematically. The prosecution ignored the shooting of the fleeing inmates. One of the inmates was shot to death with six bullet wounds from three separate bullets; but such vital facts could not be entered into evidence.

The High Court held the police responsible for removing the dead bodies of the detainees from the scene to destroy the evidence. The Supreme Court justified it on the ground that “it was so done to preserve peace in the area as there was a large concentration of Tamil estate workers in the surrounding area”.

The Supreme Court also gave more importance to the testimony of the police such as ASP Dayaratne and a sole Sinhala witness over the testimony of two survivors - accepted as true by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry - that they were each attacked by the mob while they were inside a police vehicle within sight of numerous police officers.

The Supreme Court also dismissed the claims of survivor Perumal Easwaran that his two fingers were blown off by a gunshot wound when the police shot towards a group of inmates fleeing attackers. The Supreme Court relied on the evidence of a Judicial Medical Officer who certified his wounds were caused by sharp weapons but ignored the fact that an earlier JMO report recommended treatment of “gunshot wounds.”

While considering the question of the police failure to arrest any of the attackers, the Supreme Court made no mention of the photographs taken by the police that clearly showed senior police officers milling around the camp alongside armed attackers, as a dead or injured detainee lies at their feet.

The Supreme Court also ignored an important piece of evidence that the High Court made much of: the fact that the attackers were able to burn the bodies of many inmates beyond recognition suggests that the attack was not over and done with quickly. For the bodies to be burnt so completely, the High Court argued, would have required the acquiescence of the police.

“The failure to make Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Bindunuwewa massacre is not an isolated incident. The report of the three-member Truth Commission formed by President Chandrika Kumaratunga in July 2002 to investigate incidents of ethnic violence between 1981 and 1984, including anti-Tamil riots in July 1983, has also not been made public. The denial of justice to the Tamil minorities is a collective failure of the institutions of the Sri Lankan state run by majority Sinhalese, and one of the main obstacles to national reconciliation. It cannot simply be brushed aside under the brutalities of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam” – asserted Chakma.

[ENDS]

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