On August 15 (yesterday) people from Rathupaswela, Weliweriya, were asked to go to the army camps in order to record evidence from them. The people did not want to go to the camps for obvious reasons. Previous reports revealed that the people are afraid that those who are witnesses to the events which led to the killing of three persons and assaults on many others would become targets of reprisals. Some people sought the help of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka which, it has been reported, has intervened and made arrangements for the statements to be recorded at police stations.
The military is supposed to be conducting an investigation into the events at Rathupaswela, Weliweriya. The military should first collect evidence from the soldiers and the officers who participated in these raids. They are the ones who best know what they themselves did. It is to be assumed that the officers will reveal the actual facts to the military inquiry. Even under normal circumstances it is the duty of the commanding officer and all others who participated in the raids to report on every matter accurately. It is on that basis only that the military can function as an organised force working within the framework of the law of the country.
Every gun that was signed out, every bullet issued is supposed to be taken only after the making of proper records in the prescribed registers. It is every soldier’s duty to report on the use of their weapons if they are, in fact, used. If the injuries were caused in the course of the use of their weapons it is the duty of the officers to report this to their lawful authorities. Therefore there should be no secret to the military about how any injuries that were caused by the use of their weapons came about and who was responsible. This is information that the military should gather from their own sources. If the military is unable to get this information from their own soldiers then there is a severe breakdown of military discipline. By now the military should have a clear record of the commands that were given and how they were carried out.
As for the assaults on the people, again the officers who carried out the assaults should have by now revealed the details of their actions to their authorities. If whatever they did was on the basis of orders given then there should be no difficulty for the soldiers to report on how they carried out their orders. There should be no difficulty for the commanding officers to report by now as to whether whatever orders that were given were properly carried out or whether there were excesses. If there were excesses what those excesses were and who was responsible.
There were at least three deaths. The military authorities by now should know who fired the guns which caused these deaths. Have the soldiers kept to their military regulations, particularly in terms of the use of minimum force in the use of their weapons? If they have, in fact, violated the rules what was the manner of such violations and who are the responsible officers that did such violations?
All these are matters that the military should resolve on their own. This is not a situation like catching thieves or challenging the people to say that if you have evidence show what wrong we have done. This is not a relationship between criminals and those are victims of crimes. This is a situation of the country’s armed forces and the nation’s citizens. Whatever function that the military has performed had to be on the basis of their official position. Whatever has been done in an official position should also be revealed as the official regulations require.
Trying to go behind the people to collect information about what the military has done is a farce. The military should find out from the military itself what they have done. If the military is incapable of doing that then the people have a right to ask what kind of military they have.
The Asian Human Rights Commission is aware that the witnesses are living in fear of reprisals. Their fear is well-founded on the basis of common experiences. If the military is trying to pursue them to find out who the witnesses are with a view to dealing with them in the future then that will only worsen the wounds of people who are already shocked by what took place and the deaths and injuries they have suffered.
It is also shocking if the military is trying to take over the functions of the police. Inquiries into complaints of civilians are a matter for the police. If the police functions are to be usurped by the army it is again a clear indication of the militarisation that is taking place in the country.
It is for the high command of the military to inquire into the reasons for the military to ask people to go to their camps. It is up to them to stop such acts which cause further fear and disturbance among the people.
*A statement from Asian Human Rights Commission