2ND LEAD (Adds corrections)
Chavakacheri courts orders action against SLA officers
[TamilNet, Friday, 16 February 2007, 04:49 GMT]
In a historic ruling, Chavakacheri courts, said Thursday that there is sufficient evidence of direct involvement of Sri Lanka Army (SLA) officers in the disappearance of a number of youths in Thenmaradchchy area in 1996, and issued orders that further action be taken by Jaffna High Courts, legal sources in Jaffna said. The case against the accused officers of SLA was being heard at Chavakacheri courts since Monday, 12 February.
Jaffna High Court had delegated the 25 cases to be heard in District courts in Jaffna and Chavakachcheri. Though no progress has been made regarding the complaints transferred to Jaffna courts, the ruling by Chavakachcheri courts sets a precedence towards prosecuting SLA officers within Sri Lanka judicial system, legal sources said.
During a series of cordon and search operations in Thenmaradchy area in the villages of Navatkuli, Kaithady, Kovilankandy and Thanakillappu on 19 July, 04 August, and 02 October 1996 number of young men and women were arrested by SLA troops.
In Kaithady and Navatkuli alone more than 34 youths were arrested and Captain Duminda has been named by the relatives of the victims as the first accused behind their arrests and subsequent disappearance. Captain Duminda promoted as Lt Colonel is presently serving as a special assistant to the SLA chief Sarath Fonseka at the military head quarters, sources in Colombo said .
Another accused, Major General Janaka Perera, Operational Commander for the Jaffna peninsula and Joint Chief of Operations in 1996, is currently the High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in Australia.
The relatives of the victims had filed a case against the officers as responsible for the arrests and disappearance since 2003. However, no action has been taken for the past four years. Lawyers Remdius and Appapillai Vinayagamoorthy have been appearing on behalf of the victims, legal sources in Jaffna said.
Meanwhile, none of the accused has turned themselves to the courts. Only their lawyers have presented themselves on behalf of the accused military officers, legal sources said.
With more than 542 civilians reported missing in the peninsula since October 2006, Thursday's decision by Chavakacheri courts has given temporary relief to the relatives of the victims, civil sources said.
Although cases of extra judicial arrests, killings and disappearances have escalated in Jaffna Peninsula, and the Sri Lankan armed forces and collaborating paramilitaries are alleged to be behind the disappearances, so far no actions have been taken, civil sources and human rights activists said.