Colombo Telegraph

Security Forces Involved In High Profile Human Rights Violations – Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission’s Unpublished Report

Colombo Telegraph has obtained an unpublished report commissioned by the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission in 2006 which had explicitly concluded that security forces personnel were involved in several high profile human rights violations including the killing of five students in Trincomalee in January 2006 and the abduction on 31 January 2006.

Dr Radhika Coomaraswamy

The report was commissioned by Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy when she was the Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Hunan Rights Commission in 2006. Mr. T Suntheralingam, retired High Court and member of the Constitutional Council was appointed as Special Rapporteur by the HRC to look into several high profile violations. The report which was produced within a matter of months after a fact finding mission and an intensive interview process was never released by the HRC.

Soon afterwards, Dr.  Coomaraswamy took up a UN posting as the Under secretary General and Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.

The Special Rapporteur investigated the following incidents; Abduction of TRO Staff, Killing of five students at Trincomalee, Rape and murder of Elayathamby Tharshini, Killing of the Kattankudy Divisional Secretary  and Killing at the Mosque in Akkaraipattu.

With regard to the killing of five students in Trincomalee on January 2, 2006, the Special Rapporteur concluded that as per the testimonies gathered, including from Police personnel involved in the incident, that evidence strongly suggests that the STF carried out the atrocity. An unknown person had thrown a grenade where seven boys were gathered in the evening at the beach injuring several of the students. Immediately afterwards several STF personnel had arrived at the scene and taken the injured boys.  Moments later witnesses say they heard gunfire to discover that the five students had been killed, execution style, while two others had suffered gunshot injuries.  The Special Rapporteur concludes that the STF team, which had arrived in Trincomalee just a few days before the incident, had carried out this crime. The report cites how the government media claimed that five terrorists were killed while handling a grenade.  This claim was immediately dispelled by the Judicial Medical Officer who concluded that the boys had been killed due to gunshot injuries. A journalist who had taken photographs of the incident and published them immediately afterwards had also been killed within a matter of weeks, the HRC Special Rapporteur concludes.

The Colombo Telegraph inquired from Dr.  Coomaraswamy as to why this report was never published and whether she was under any pressure not to release the findings..

“I had only one term as the Chair of the HRC 2003-2006 and joined the UN in early 2006. I commissioned the report because it was clearly a situation that required an inquiry and we tried to be proactive. But I do not think I was there when the report was finalized or it was finalized as I was leaving. There was no pressure brought on me to either commission the report or not to release the report. As you know my Commission was appointed under the seventeenth amendment and was quite independent- including people like Dr. Deepika Udagama. But after us the President bypassed the procedure and appointed commissioners directly and the Commission lost its international status as a result,” Dr. Coomaraswamy told Colombo Telegraph.

However one investigator familiar with the commissioned report told Colombo Telegraph that it had been finalised prior to Dr. Coomaraswamy’s departure for the UN.

However both Dr. Coomaraswamy and her HRC colleague Dr. Deepika Udagama deny the allegation.

Dr. Coomaraswamy clarified later to Colombo Telegraph that Dr. Deepika (Udagama) had also confirmed that the report was not finalized when they left the HRC.

“Neither she nor I can remember the contents and if it had been finalized we would surely have remembered,” Dr. Coomaraswamy said.

Read the report here; Report by the HRC appointed Special Rapporteur

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