Colombo Telegraph

WikiLeaks: US Was Following Lt. Col. Keppetiwalana Case Involving The Disappearance Of 25 Villagers From Jaffna

By Colombo Telegraph

“There are, however, similar cases from the mid-1990s now working their way through the courts involving officials who have since been promoted and are now in key positions in MoD. We are following a case dating from 1996 involving the disappearance of 25 villagers from the Jaffna peninsula in which Lt. Col. Duminda Keppetiwalana, now the executive assistant of Army Commander Fonseka, is implicated. (Keppetiwalana has been denied U.S.-funded training under the Leahy Amendment because of pending charges against him, ref o.) The magistrate who was handling the case has since been transferred from Jaffna to Colombo and demoted to juvenile court. If the 1996 case is quashed, it will be an indication that Sri Lanka is making little headway on accountability. ” US Embassy Colombo informed Washington. The cable is  classified as “Confidential” and written by the Ambassador Robert O. Blake on September 6, 2007.

Judge Srinithy Nandasekaran

In another cable dated October 19, 2007 Robert O. Blake wrote “Ms. Nandasekaran served in Jaffna as an Additional Magistrate from late 2003 until September 2006. While in that position, Ms. Nandasekaran allowed a case against several officers, including Lt. Col. Duminda Chanaka Keppetiwalana, to proceed. Keppetiwalana was then commanding officer of Nawathkuly Army Camp and is the current executive assistant to the Sri Lankan army commander. Keppetiwalana was accused of overseeing the abduction and assassination of more than 30 persons in 1996-97. Because of the high profile nature of the defendant, Ms. Nandasekaran was strongly advised by colleagues on the bench to dismiss the charges and received threats from government and military leaders when she refused. She did not bow to the pressure. Ms. Nandasekaran also played a key role in the controversial case involving the abduction and murder of Jaffna human right activist Father Jim Brown, a Catholic priest who disappeared near a military checkpoint in mid-2006. Ms. Nandasekaran had ordered the police to begin investigating the Sri Lankan Navy’s alleged involvement in Father Brown’s disappearance. Because of her involvement in the Keppetiwalana and Father Brown cases, she was removed from her assignments and restricted to hearing only civil cases. No progress has been made in the Keppetiwalana or Brown investigations since her removal from the cases. Ms. Nandasekaran was transferred from Jaffna in January 2007, shortly after sharing information with Ambassador Blake about human rights abuses in Jaffna”

“When she was transferred from Jaffna to Colombo in January 2007, Ms. Nandasekaran was demoted to the Juvenile Court.” he further wrote.

The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeaks database. Read the relevant parts of the cables below;

 

VZCZCXRO9723
OO RUEHBI RUEHLMC
DE RUEHLM #1225/01 2491121
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 061121Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6749
INFO RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 0388
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 7376
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 5493
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 4004
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 1323
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 4072
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 3158
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 7965
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 5609
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO PRIORITY 0388
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 2298
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 08 COLOMBO 001225 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS 

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/05/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER PHUM MOPS CE
SUBJECT: HUMAN RIGHTS IN SRI LANKA: SOME IMPROVEMENT BUT
MORE REMAINS TO BE DONE 

REF: A) COLOMBO 977 B) COLOMBO 1036 C) COLOMBO 1078
     D) COLOMBO 728 E) COLOMBO 722 F) COLOMBO
     709 G) COLOMBO 413 H) COLOMBO 463 I)
     COLOMBO 809 J) COLOMBO 1187 K) COLOMBO 920
     L) COLOMBO 746 M) COLOMBO 899 N) COLOMBO
     959 O) COLOMBO 409 P) COLOMBO 1218 

Classified By: Ambassador Robert O. Blake, Jr. Reasons: 1.4(b, d).
27.  (C) There are, however, similar cases from the mid-1990s
now working their way through the courts involving officials
who have since been promoted and are now in key positions in
MoD.  We are following a case dating from 1996 involving the
disappearance of 25 villagers from the Jaffna peninsula in
which Lt. Col. Duminda Keppetiwalana, now the executive
assistant of Army Commander Fonseka, is implicated.
(Keppetiwalana has been denied U.S.-funded training under the
Leahy Amendment because of pending charges against him, ref
o.)  The magistrate who was handling the case has since been
transferred from Jaffna to Colombo and demoted to juvenile
court.  If the 1996 case is quashed, it will be an indication
that Sri Lanka is making little headway on accountability.

 

VZCZCXYZ0010
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLM #1441/01 2920922
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 190922Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7040
UNCLAS COLOMBO 001441 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS 

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INS AND G/IWI 

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM KWMN KPAO CE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: NOMINATION FOR SECRETARY'S
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN OF COURAGE AWARD 

REF: STATE 126072 

1.  Embassy Colombo wishes to nominate Ms. Srinithy
Nandasekaran of Sri Lanka for the Secretary's International
Woman of Courage  Award.  As one of Sri Lanka's few female
attorneys from the ethnic minority Tamil population, Ms.
Nandasekaran has worked tirelessly as a lawyer, judge, and
human rights activist to protect the rights of civilians
caught in the crossfire of Sri Lanka's 25-year ethnic
conflict. 

2.  Ms. Nandasekaran's determined efforts to hold government
officials and security force officers accountable for their
actions have led to career demotions and threats to her life
and the lives of her family members.  In 2003, while serving
in Kayts, an island off the Jaffna peninsula in northern Sri
Lanka, Ms. Nandasekaran came under fire for ordering the
return of 13 official vehicles that were being
inappropriately used by the Eelam People's Democratic Party
(EPDP), a pro-government paramilitary group with a history of
serious human rights abuses.  She defied advice from a senior
judge to consider the lives of her three children and
withdraw the order against the EPDP.  Rather than allow the
case to proceed, the Government removed her from her position
as Magistrate and District Judge in Kayts and transferred her
to Jaffna. 

3.  Ms. Nandasekaran served in Jaffna as an Additional
Magistrate from late 2003 until September 2006.  While in
that position, Ms. Nandasekaran allowed a case against
several officers, including Lt. Col. Duminda Chanaka
Keppetiwalana, to proceed.  Keppetiwalana was then commanding
officer of Nawathkuly Army Camp and is the current executive
assistant to the Sri Lankan army commander.  Keppetiwalana
was accused of overseeing the abduction and assassination of
more than 30 persons in 1996-97.  Because of the high profile
nature of the defendant, Ms. Nandasekaran was strongly
advised by colleagues on the bench to dismiss the charges and
received threats from government and military leaders when
she refused.  She did not bow to the pressure. 

4.  Ms. Nandasekaran also played a key role in the
controversial case involving the abduction and murder of
Jaffna human right activist Father Jim Brown, a Catholic
priest who disappeared near a military checkpoint in
mid-2006.  Ms. Nandasekaran had ordered the police to begin
investigating the Sri Lankan Navy's alleged involvement in
Father Brown's disappearance.  Because of her involvement in
the Keppetiwalana and Father Brown cases, she was removed
from her assignments and restricted to hearing only civil
cases.  No progress has been made in the Keppetiwalana or
Brown investigations since her removal from the cases.  Ms.
Nandasekaran was transferred from Jaffna in January 2007,
shortly after sharing information with Ambassador Blake about
human rights abuses in Jaffna. 

5.  Ms. Nandasekaran has been commended by human rights
activists and citizens in Jaffna for her personal commitment
to justice for the victims of human rights abuses, often in
defiance of threats from the government and paramilitary
groups.  In May 2006, she provided information to the police
on the massacre of 12 civilians in Alapitty, Kayts.  In
August 2006, she personally assisted in the rescue of 54
injured civilians from a Christian church that was under
attack.  As Jaffna Magistrate, she initiated a new procedure
whereby victims or victims' relatives can initiate cases in
the Magistrate's Court when civilians are reported missing
after being take into custody by government security forces. 

6.  When she was transferred from Jaffna to Colombo in
January 2007, Ms. Nandasekaran was demoted to the Juvenile
Court.  Nonetheless, she has taken on the role of defending
the rights of women and children with enthusiasm, saying "I
don't mind.  There is a lot to be done to protect the
children of Sri Lanka."  In several cases she has pursued
justice against those accused of child abuse and violence
against women, even when the perpetrators were influential
officials. 

7.  Ms. Nandasekaran is richly deserving of this award.  Post
confirms that Nandasekaran has been notified and has
consented to her nomination. 

      Full Name: Srinithy Nandasekaran
      Title/Position:  Magistrate, Colombo Juvenile Court
      DOB: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx [ Edited out by Colombo Telegrapah]
      POB: Colombo, Sri Lanka
      Citizenship:  Sri Lankan
      Address: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx [ Edited out by Colombo Telegrapah]
Phone Numbers: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx [ Edited out by Colombo Telegrapah]
Email Address: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx [ Edited out by Colombo Telegrapah]
Passport Number: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx [ Edited out by Colombo Telegrapah]
BLAKE
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