Cablegate: Sri Lanka: Human Rights Cases Continue To

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Sri Lanka: Human rights cases continue to
move through judicial system, if somewhat erratically

Ref: 02 Colombo 1427 and previous

1. (SBU) Summary: This update reviews the progress of
four high profile human rights related court cases,

-- Kandy election day killings - continuation of a case
against a high-profile political family and security
forces for killing 10 supporters of a Muslim party;

-- Krishanthi Coomaraswamy - an appeal by six security
force personnel on their conviction of raping and
killing Coomaraswamy;

-- Bindunuwewa massacre - ongoing trial of 41 civilians
and 10 security force personnel accused of killing 23
Tamils in a rehabilitation camp;

-- Mailanthanai - acquittal of security force personnel
accused of killing 32 people;

End Summary.

Kandy election day killings
2. (SBU) Anuruddha Ratwatte, the former Defense Minister
and a relative of President Kumaratunga, had his bail
revoked on January 21. Ratwatte's two sons and thirteen
other defendants, including security force personnel,
have been accused of murdering ten Muslim campaign
workers on election day December 5, 2001, allegedly
under the direction of Ratwatte. The trial-at-bar
hearing was taking place during the afternoon of
January 27. (Note: A trial-at-bar replaces a jury with
three high court judges with the intended effect of
speeding up the trial process and limiting the
possibility of harassing witnesses.)

Krishanthi Coomaraswamy
3. (SBU) In 1999, six security force personnel were
convicted for and sentenced to death for the rape and
murder of Tamil student Krishanthi Coomaraswamy. This
case garnered widespread publicity in Sri Lanka because
of the rarity, at the time, of the GSL prosecuting cases
against its security forces. It is still one of a few
cases resulting in the conviction of security force
personnel. In addition, the case gained notoriety when
two of the defendants claimed to have knowledge of mass
burial sites in the Chemmani area (the Chemmani case is
reviewed in Reftels). On January 7, the Sri Lankan
Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal on this case. A
date for the hearing has not yet been set.

Bindunuwewa massacre
4. (SBU) In October 2000, 27 Tamils held at the
Bindunuwewa rehabilitation camp for former child
soldiers were killed while police allegedly looked on.
In May 2001, a court case against 51 suspects began with
the reading of 83 charges. During the most recent
hearing, January 21, the Colombo High Court acquitted 23
of the accused, stating there was a lack of evidence to
hold them. Three students from a local teacher training
college, one police officer and nineteen villagers were

5. (SBU) In 1994, a case began against 21 security force
personnel accused of murdering 35 Tamil civilians in
Mailanthanai, in eastern Sri Lanka. The trial came to
an end with an acquittal of the security force personnel
on November 25, 2002. The attorneys for the aggrieved
parties recently met with the Attorney General asking
that the case be reopened. Some of the attorneys allege
that the Sinhala jury ignored evidence in acquitting the
security forces. The case remains closed.

6. (SBU) The GSL continues to press forward on numerous
human rights cases, including those reviewed above.
Despite the efforts of the Attorney General's office to
see progress in the cases it is pursuing, it continues
to have to grapple with a slow and somewhat erratic
judicial system. In the end, however, the cases are
moving through the court system and decisions will
eventually be reached. End comment.


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