by ‘Tamil Guardian,’ London, July 27, 2016
Six former Sri Lankan army corporals were acquitted by a Sri Lankan court today over the rape and massacre of 24 Tamil civilians in Kumarapuram in 1996.
The Sri Lankan soldiers were standing on trial over the involvement in the killings, which took place in the village in southern Trincomalee on the 11th of February 1996. Several women and children among the murdered and two young girls were raped before they were killed.
No one has yet been held accountable for the murders, with the Sri Lankan court having acquitted the soldiers of all of the 101 indictments they faced each.
High Court judge Manjula Thilakaratne delivered the verdict after the jury at Anuradhapura High Court decided the soldiers could not be prosecuted, despite eye witnesses identifying those allegedly involved. All physical evidence relating to the case, including the weapons allegedly used by the soldiers, were apparently destroyed in a fire at the office of the Government Analyst in Colombo in 2004.
Survivors of the massacre had initially identified the alleged perpetrators from a line up, with 20 reported arrests made. Despite the nature of the crime, all the suspects were promptly released on bail.
Amnesty International said this of the massacre at the time:
“The Kumarapuram incident – The largest incident of deliberate and arbitrary killings of civilians by the security forces since the resumption of the armed conflict in April 1995 took place at Kumarapuram, Trincomalee district, on 11 February 1996. According to several survivors interviewed by Amnesty International, 24 civilians, including 13 women and seven children below the age of 12, were killed by soldiers from the 58th Mile Post and Dehiwatte army camps, accompanied by Home Guards from Dehiwatte.
The killings were in apparent reprisal for the killings by the LTTE of two soldiers near the 58th Mile Post about half an hour earlier. According to one witness, a group of soldiers, some of whom were drunk, gathered at Dehiwatte junction and then proceeded towards Kumarapuram, shouting “Death to the Tamils”.
The villagers of Kumarapuram had taken refuge inside their houses. The soldiers broke open the shutters and aimed their guns at the people hiding inside. One woman recounted how she pleaded with them not to shoot but to no avail. In her house, seven people were killed, including a six-year-old child.
Among the victims was 17-year-old Arumaithurai Tharmaletchumi. She was dragged from a boutique in the village and taken to the milk collection centre where she was raped before being shot. Antony Joseph, a 14-year-old boy, who tried to stop the soldiers from dragging her away, was shot between his legs.”
Kumarapuram village – the scene of the massacre.
An urgent action appeal issued by the organisation just days after the massacre said:
“Several of the 25 people wounded in the same incident, who are currently receiving treatment at Trincomalee Base Hospital told human rights workers how soldiers broke open doors and windows of houses and fired at those inside. One of the women, Arumathurai Thanalakshmi was reportedly dragged from a boutique in the village and taken to the milk collection centre where she was raped before being shot. One of the other women killed was pregnant.”
“Soldiers from the 58th Mile Post army camp have reportedly been transferred
out of the area. To Amnesty International’s knowledge, none of them have been
arrested. Survivors claim they could identify some of the attackers. They say
that five or six soldiers in particular went around killing people. Others
The village had been wrecked by years of armed conflict.
Peace Brigades Internationals (PBI) field-workers who went to the to Trincomalee District a month after massacre and spoke to villagers said:
“The dominant theme in all of our discussions was the recent massacre at Kumarapuram, in southern Trincomalee district. As we reported last month, on the 11th of February, men in military uniforms entered the village shouting “Demala kattiya maranuwa” (death to the Tamils).
They killed at least 24 civilians, including 7 children under the age of 12, and wounded 26 more. Villagers who survived the attack were initially very willing to identify the men involved as members of the Sri Lankan Army attached to various nearby camps. According to Mr. Thangathurai, MP for the area, the soldiers carried out the attack in retaliation after two of their comrades were ambushed by cadres of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). A report by the University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR) further indicates that the divisional army commander may have actually ordered the massacre, having allegedly told his troops, “kudu karanda” (make it dust).”
One eyewitness survivor testified before a court in 1998 and described the scenes he witnessed.
“A sound of persons approaching the grocery was heard and voice asked in Sinhala, “Who is in?”. The occupants had remained silent.
A gun barrel was thrust through a chink in the door and there was firing.
The youth Sutharan died on the spot.”
Read more of his testimony here.
See the names of those killed below.
1. Subiah Savirajah male age 76
2. Kinnan Kovinthan male age 72
3. Sivakkolunthu Sinnadurai male age 56
4. Vadivelu Nadarajah male age 22
5. Sundaralingam Luxmy female age 35
6. Arunasalam Kamaladevy female age 35
7. Alahuthurai Parames female age 30
8. Subramaniam Pakkiyam female age 30
9. Arumaithurai Vallipillai female age 28
10. Selladurai Pakkiyam female age 26
11. Anandan Annamah female age 26
12. Thurairajah Karunakaran male age 15
13. Arumaidurai Santhyaluxmy female age 15
14. Kanakarajah Subashinirajah male age 15
15. Vinayakamoorthy Suthaharan male age 14
16. Ramajeyam Kamaleswari female age 13
17. Thangavel Kala female age 12
18. Shanmuganathan Nizandan male age 11
19. Sundaralingam Pirabaharan male age 11
20. Amirthalingam Rasanighandi female age 10
21. Theepan Patiny female age 9
22. Sivapakiyam Thiraiyampan female age 6
23. Pakkkiyarajah Vasanthini female age 6
24. Sundaralingam Subasini female age 3