Kumarapuram trial stalls again

[TamilNet, Monday, 18 May 1998, 23:59 GMT]
There is concern among human rights activists that the Kumarapuram massacre case, where 24 persons were killed and equal number wounded on February 11, 1996, has been put on the back-burner by the Sri Lanka Government (SLG), by postponing the appointment of a regular magistrate to hear the case.

Eight soldiers of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) from the Kilivetti camp, 32 km south of Trincomalee, are in remand after being identified as responsible for the atrocity at Kumarapuram by witnesses.

When the matter was taken up on May 13 this year at the Muthur courts, non-summary proceedings of the case were put off by the acting magistrate Mr. K Sellarajah till May 27 for the want of a regular magistrate, said sources in Trincomalee.

Non-summary proceedings, where evidence is being recorded of 124 witnesses, was last heard when on January 21 this year.

The Additional Magistrate S. A. Liyanage who was hearing the case from the inception was sent on compulsory retirement by the Judicial Services Commission soon after this and no one has been appointed in his stead, said sources.

Reports say that he was retired due to alcoholism.

The non-summary proceedings have not gone at too fast a pace either. Of the 124 witnesses, only 48 have given evidence of whom eight gave evidence on January 21, 1998.

Another concern raised by human rights activists is whether the new magistrate, if and when he or she is appointed, will want witnesses to give evidence afresh, or take up the matter where Mr. Liyanage left them.

Giving fresh evidence will only prolong the proceedings, said human rights activists.

The infamous Kumarapuram massacre took place in the hamlet of that name, two km from Kilivetti, in the Muthur division, 32 km south of Trincomalee, when a large group of SLA personnel from the Kilivetti camp, incensed at the killing of two of their comrades-in-arms at 58th milepost junction at Kilivetti, massacred 24 persons on February 11, 1996.

The dead included two infants and nine young people between the ages nine and 20 years. There were 13 males and 11 females among the victims.

One February 12, 1996, 97 members of the Kilivetti camp were arrested of whom eight were identified by the villagers and remanded.

Human rights activists have expressed concern that despite the SLG's pious pledges at international fora to prosecute security forces personnel accused of human rights abuses, except for a few showpiece trials, cases where security forces personnel are implicated are quietly swept under the carpet.

 

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