International participation urged in massacre investigation
[TamilNet, Sunday, 29 October 2000, 19:05 GMT]
The Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) has appealed to the President of Sri Lanka to hold an impartial criminal investigative process inclusive of neutral international investigators into the crimes committed at Binudunuwewa rehabilitation centre, Bandarawela. The Secretary General of the TULF, Mr.R.Sampanthan in a letter to the President has requested her to ensure protection to the surviving detainees who would be prime witnesses to the investigation.
The full text of the letter is given below:
"The massacre of the Tamil detainees at the Bandarawela-Binudunuwewe rehabilitation centre has aroused the utmost outrage and concern amongst all right thinking people both domestically and internationally.
"The Tamil people in particular, are gravely concerned that the massacre of Tamils in custody is becoming a not too infrequent phenomenon. What has happened at Binudunuwewa, Bandarawela, is seen as a repetition of what happened at Welikade and Kalutara, of which the Tamil people have very unpleasant memories.
"In those instances, the offended were not subjected to the Rule of Law, as no credible criminal investigative process was set in motion. Any step taken was to enable a cover-up; not to ascertain the truth.
"The question is whether there will be a credible criminal investigative process in regard to what has happened at Bindunuwewa, Bandarawela, or whether there will be another cover-up. Yet another cover-up will only convince the Tamil people that when they are the victims, the Rule of Law in this country suffers paralysis.
"I am aware that you have expeditiously taken certain steps; but unless every step in the criminal investigative process is scrupulously monitored, there can be no guarantee, that there will be no cover-up. It is for this reason that I am writing to you and wish to state the following:-
"The detainees at Bindunuwewa were mostly surrenders being rehabilitated in government custody, and even if consequent to some discontent, they had staged certain protests, their conduct was not such as to justify the use of physical force against them, certainly not with dangerous weapons capable of inflicting death.
"The attempt to attribute the whole blame to a 'mob' is an attempt to avoid accountability. Normal civilians could not have been involved in an attack of this nature. I am inclined to the view that a 'mob' had been organised and got ready for the job. The 'mob' was thereafter given free entry into the Camp and a free hand by the personnel responsible for the custody/security of the detainees, to do what they wanted or had been asked to do. The detainees were not protected; the attackers were not repulsed. The attack ended only when the attackers on their own decided to leave. Additional security forces arrived only after the attackers had left. Many a question needs to be answered.
"The whole sordid episode reeks of a criminal conspiracy between personnel responsible for the custody/security of the detainees inside the camp and collaborators outside.
"In the interests of justice, this conspiracy needs to be revealed and the offenders, those who committed the crimes, those who conspired to commit the crimes, and those who aided and abetted the commission of the crimes, should be subjected to the law.
"The investigations should be entrusted to a team of investigators reputed for their impartiality integrity and ability.
"We earnestly and strongly request that Your Excellency's Government also engage at the earliest, a neutral international investigator or a team of investigators to assist and monitor the investigations. This would be the only way to ensure the impartiality of the investigations. This we strongly urge would be the only way to satisfy all right thinking people in the country, and the International Community that the government is genuinely committed to ascertaining the truth and bringing the offenders to book. The Tamil people themselves would then have no reason to question the credibility of the investigative process.
"The surviving detainees who would the prime witnesses should be given safe protection. The Government should ensure this.
"The Rule of Law should be upheld, particularly when grave crimes have been committed against defenceless persons held in Government custody and we submit that your government should take credible steps to full-fill this objective.
"I would also urge Your Excellency to take appropriate action to compensate adequately the families of the detainees who have been killed and also those who have injured."