Bindunuwewa massacre will not be the last - AHRC
[TamilNet, Monday, 30 May 2005, 11:24 GMT]
Condemning the Sri Lankan state’s failure punish those responsible for the 2000 massacre of Tamils held at the Bindunuwewa detention facility, the Asian Human Rights Commission Tuesday said “Sri Lankan system of justice is guilty of ensuring immunity for offenders.” As a consequence, the Hong Kong based group warned: “this massacre was not the first of its kind, and will certainly not be the last.”
The full statement of the AHRC, titled “The Bindunuwewa Massacre and Sri Lanka’s defective justice system” follows:
“On 25 October 2000, more than 25 young Tamils at a rehabilitation centre in Bindunuwewa near Bandarawela in the south-central part of the island were attacked and killed by a Sinhalese group. Who were the actual culprits? Who were their masterminds? To these questions Sri Lanka’s justice system has no answers.
“Likewise, after nearly five years the survivors of this massacre and the relatives of the dead are still left with these questions unanswered. This most horrendous act of killing young people, who were in a rehabilitation centre, which was under the protection of the Sri Lankan government, has proved only one thing; that the Sri Lankan system of justice is guilty of ensuring immunity for offenders.
“Forty-one persons were charged with participating in the massacre. However, the Sri Lankan courts have gradually acquitted all of these persons on the basis that there was no evidence to convict them. The last of these acquittals came on 27 May 2005 when the Supreme Court acquitted the remaining accused on the basis that the evidence against them lacked merit.
“That the massacre took place killing 27 detainees and injuring 14 others is not in doubt. That the modes of killing were so ugly and cruel is also not in doubt. That the Sri Lankan government was responsible for the protection of these detainees is also well established. However, just who the actual perpetrators of this heinous crime were, the Sri Lankan justice system has been unable to resolve. Was this deliberate, or was it merely a case of negligence and incompetence on the part of investigating officers? Perhaps this will also never be known. However, that the Sri Lankan state is responsible for the failure to provide justice in this instance is blatantly clear.
“The primary responsibility for this failure lies with the Sri Lankan police who had the legal responsibility to investigate into this matter and to provide all evidence that was necessary to secure a successful conviction. Obviously the investigators failed in their task. Will there be an investigation into the failure to conduct proper investigations by the police? Given the magnitude of the crime, such an investigation is imperative. Who will initiate such an investigation? The obligation lies with the Inspector General of Police and with the government itself. The failure to properly investigate such a massacre is a serious breach of trust by the police service in Sri Lanka. If the Inspector General of Police and the government do not conduct a thorough investigation into the issue, significant credibility will be lost in regards to the policing system as well as the Sri Lankan government’s claims to ensure justice and respect for human rights.
“There is clearly also a failure on the part of the prosecutors in Sri Lanka; a failure that lies with the Attorney General’s department itself. The department should not have filed indictments against persons if they did not have sufficient evidence to prove a case successfully before a court. To the accused, it is a great injustice to bring them before a court without sufficient evidence. To the survivors of the massacre and the relatives of the dead such prosecutions amount to deception. Also for the public, who would have sought justice, this is also a betrayal of their trust.
“When viewing this case, it is not surprising to learn that there is only a four per cent success rate for prosecutions in the country. The judges, the prosecutors and the government have deliberated over and over on this fact. However, how can there be successful prosecution without a criminal investigation system that is able to conduct professional and thorough inquiries before proceeding to court? Further, how can there be successful prosecution without a prosecuting system that thoroughly measures the evidence before prosecutions are filed? The reason for the low rate of success for convictions is thus the defective police investigation system and the prosecution system themselves.
“There is a lobby in Sri Lanka that protests continuously for victim's rights. Leading judges, prosecutors and also high-ranking policemen are constantly talking about victim's rights. Yet, where are the victim's rights in the case of the Bindunuwewa massacre? Are not these victims the same as victims of any other crime? Is it not hypocritical on the part of this lobby if they do not question the denial of victim's rights to the victims of this massacre?
“Some Tamils might say that the massacre, as well as the failure to conduct a proper investigation, is part of a scheme to deny justice to them. However, the truth is that in present day Sri Lanka, justice is denied to everyone. This massacre was not the first of its kind, and will certainly not be the last. Where, when and for what purpose other massacres will happen remains unknown? But they will happen and there is nothing in the Sri Lankan legal system to suggest that they will be dealt with any more competently than Bindunuwewa was. At present Sri Lanka has neither the capacity to properly investigate such crimes, or to prevent them. Indeed, justice in Sri Lanka is in deep peril.
“If there is hope in these circumstances it lies with the people. It is time to condemn and to revolt against a system of misadministration of justice that is destroying the capacity of Sri Lanka to survive as a decent society. It is the people who can bring to trial the criminal investigation and prosecution system in the country. If the people fail to intervene to save their system of justice, Sri Lankan society is destined to join those other nations, who have already lost their capacity to survive.”