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Asian Centre for Human Rights on Bindunuwewa Massacre

Sri Lanka accused on riot report

by Upasana Bhat, BBC

Sri Lanka must publish an official report into the massacre of 27 young Tamils, a human rights group has urged.

The Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights says it has seen the report, which was commissioned by President Kumaratunga but never released.

The camp at Bandarawela after the attack
The camp was destroyed after the attack
The group says police knew locals were about to attack a detention centre housing the Tamil youths five years ago, but did nothing to stop them.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court acquitted all accused in the case.

Sri Lankan Justice Minister John Senaviratna said police officers accused in the case had been acquitted following trials.

He said the matter was in the hands of the president.

Teenage suspects

The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) says disciplinary action should be initiated against eight police officers, following the massacre at Bundarawela in central Sri Lanka in October 2000.

It says the report by Justice PHK Kulatilaka, who led the commission of inquiry into the killings, accuses the police of "indefensible inaction and attitudes at the time of the incident".

As well as the 27 who died, 14 others were seriously injured in the attack, which brought international condemnation.

Local residents assaulted the inmates with clubs and knives after reports they had taken a security guard hostage. Some victims were said to have been burned alive.

Many of those who died were teenage Tamil Tiger rebel suspects.

'Organised massacre'

The director of ACHR, Suhas Chakma, said the delay in releasing the report into the attack was because the presidential commission of inquiry "clearly indicated that it was an organised massacre".

He claimed police officials were involved in it and evidence was destroyed by the prosecution.

It would therefore be difficult for the government to exonerate all the accused and at the same time have a report indicting policemen, the prosecution and the criminal investigation department, Mr Chakma says.

According to the ACHR, Justice Kulatilaka said the police knew about the impending attack as the crowd gathered to attack the camp.

It also says that the report found that "no meaningful steps" had been taken by the police to prevent the mob from getting into the centre.

Earlier this year, the US-based Human Rights Watch said the case showed crimes committed against alleged Tamil Tiger members were not being addressed.

The Tamil Tigers have fought a two-decade armed campaign for autonomy in the north and east. It is estimated that more than 60,000 people have died so far.

The full text of the ACHR press release follows:

ACHR Index: PR/SL/02/06/05
2 June 2005
President Chandrika Kumaratunga urged to make Bindunuwewa massacre report public

New Delhi:  Asian Centre for Human Rights in its report, "Sri Lanka: Miscarriage of Justice" ( condemned the acquittal of the accused of murder of 28 Tamil prisoners and attempted murder of 14 others at the Bindunuwewa Rehabilitation Centre on 25 October 2000. On 27 May 2005, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka acquitted four accused who were earlier sentenced to death by the High Court.

"The fact that that not a single person could be held guilty for the mass murder of 28 Tamils in the protective custody of the State at Bindunuwewa will further increase the distrust of even the moderate Tamil minorities with the democratic institutions of Sri Lanka" - stated Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights

The trial of Bindunuwewa massacre case has been a operation whitewash led by President Chandrika Kumaratunga who ordered a Presidential Commission headed by Justice P. H. K. Kulatilaka but failed to make the report public despite the submission of the same in November 2001. The Attorney General did not take the findings of the Justice Kulatika Commission of Inquiry and relied on the weak evidences while framing charges. Not a single senior officer present at the massacre site was charged. Even the bullets fired by the police that killed one of the inmates were not entered into evidence.

The report alleged that Sri Lankan government has provided impunity for the killings of innocent Tamil civilians. Not a single security personnel has been prosecuted whether it is in the case of Kokkadicholai massacre of 1991, Kokkuvil massacre of September 1990 or Kumarapuram massacre of February 1996. The cases relating to Kokkuvil massacre or Kumarapuram massacre have been dragging on in the courts.

In the report handed over the Sri Lankan High Commission in New Delhi, ACHR also urged President Kumratunga to instruct the government of Sri Lanka to submit an appeal before the Supreme Court for a review of the judgement of 27 May 2005 and extend invitation to the Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers to visit Sri Lanka.

Asian Centre for Human Rights also urged the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour to study all the judgements relating to the Bindunuwewa massacre and consider appointing a High Level Panel of Inquiry into the Bindunuwewa massacre.