Sri Lankan Home Guard, policemen killed aid workers: report

April 1st, 2008 - 11:14 am ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 1 (IANS) One of Sri Lanka’s most respected rights groups revealed Tuesday that a Home Guard and two policemen shot dead 17 aid workers in the country’s volatile east two years ago even as the victims begged for mercy. The University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR) identified the killers of the predominantly Tamil aid workers as Jehangir, a Muslim Home Guard who was seen as a thug, and constables Susantha and Nilantha, both from the Sinhalese community.

The UTHR, whose reports carry a lot of weight in the diplomatic community, alleged that although the three men committed the Aug 4, 2006 massacre in Mutur town, senior officials had ordered the killings and that Colombo had done a cover up.

The victims worked for the French international aid agency Action Contre la Faim (ACF). Their killings sparked widespread revulsion. Sri Lanka initially blamed the Tamil Tigers but under pressure ordered investigations that uncovered virtually nothing.

The UTHR findings, based on months of detailed and penetrating investigation, are the first exhaustive account of how and why the cold-blooded murders of 17 unarmed men as well as women took place - and who fired the shots.

On the day of the killings, civilians had more or less fled Mutur because of fighting between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the advancing military. The aid workers had also wanted to leave but were told to stay back by their bosses.

The report said that two senior police officers, Sarath Mulleriyawa and Chandana Senanayake, asked the killer trio to go with the Special Forces to see if there were LTTE cadres at the ACF office. Barring a Muslim, all ACF workers in Mutur were Tamils.

Jehangir, the report said, was a thug whose brother had been killed by the LTTE. He had vowed to kill Tamils in return.

UTHR said about two-dozen armed men, including over 10 commandos of the Naval Special Forces besides Home Guards and policemen, proceed to the ACF office.

“The commandos surrounded the place. Those at the ACF were drinking tea and eating biscuits, stuff they had bought a little while ago. The commandos called the ACF staff and asked them in Sinhalese what they were doing there after everyone else had left. The latter replied that their Trincomalee office had asked them to remain.

“Jehangir butted into the conversation and without giving the ACF staff a chance to explain insisted that the staff were LTTE. Susantha and Nilantha, the two policemen, said nothing.

“The commandos remained passive. Jehangir got the staff to kneel, and the victims were fired upon as they begged for mercy. It was all over within five minutes. Two were killed away from the others, apparently trying to run away.”

UTHR said the killer party got back to the police station by 5.00 p.m.

“Upon their return, there was an air of celebration. Jehangir, Susantha and Nilatha were given a heroes’ welcome by (officers) Mulleriyawa and Senanayake, who warmly shook hands with them…

“Evidence suggests that the killers had prior approval from Mulleriyawa and Senayake for their vile enterprise. But it is highly unlikely that (these officers) would have taken a reckless approach…

“We believe they may have received an instruction from their superiors in Trincomalee (Deputy Inspector General Rohan Abeywardene and Senior Superintendent of Police Kapila Jayasekere) that the aid workers should be killed. The commandos must have been informed by their superior to let the killings take place.”

It added that Jayasekere was also “widely known to have been responsible for planning, orchestrating and covering up the killing of” five Tamil students in Trincomalee months earlier.

“We believe the 17 aid workers would have lived had disciplinary action been instituted against Jayasekere over the killing of the five students.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in South Asia |