Amnesty fears for safety of Tamil villagers
[TamilNet, Thursday, 21 December 2000, 02:32 GMT]
Amnesty International in a statement published yesterday said that it fears for safety of villagers of Gopalapuram in Trincomalee district from Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) personnel. The statement was issued following the torture and murder, allegedly by the navy, of two young Tamil men, Mahalingam Thamiran and Shanmugarajan Sornahasan, who were previously threatened after the villagers protested against the killing of several villagers by the navy.
Full text of Amnesty's statement follows:
"Naval personnel based in Nilaveli, Trincomalee district have threatened the villagers of Gopalapuram, in eastern Sri Lanka, after they protested when several people were killed, apparently by the navy. The young people of the village are in particular danger.
"The bodies of two young men from the village were found in the morning of 14 December. Navy personnel reportedly told the Kuchchaveli police they had killed the two men, Mahalingam Thamiran and Shanmugarajah Sornahasan, and handed over the pair's identity cards. They claimed that both men were members of the armed opposition group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which is fighting for an independent state in the north and east of Sri Lanka.
"However, Amnesty International has been told that the men were detained by the navy on 13 December, at around 7.30pm. They had been returning home by motorbike, but had a flat tyre, and had been pushing the motorbike home. Villagers from nearby Iqbal Nagar allege that navy personnel took the men into an abandoned mill and tortured them. They say that around 10.45pm they heard cries for help, followed by gunfire.
"The bodies were taken to Trincomalee hospital. They reportedly showed signs of torture. Villagers returning from their funeral on 16 December were reportedly stopped by navy personnel and told that if they continued to "go on like this", their own funerals would soon follow.
"Four other villagers were killed on 22 November, apparently as they laid out their fishing nets in the nearby lagoon. One of them was a 15-year-old boy. A group of villagers from Gopalapuram organized a demonstration against the killings. It is believed that Mahalingam Thamiran and Shanmugarajah Sornahasan may have been killed because the navy knew they were among the demonstrators."
Amnesty's statement included the following background information.
"The navy was deployed to the Nilaveli area of Trincomalee district in 1999, when it took over responsibility for security in the area from the army.There have been continuous reports of human rights violations by naval personnel in the area for some time.
"Apart from the killings described above, navy personnel have also been implicated in indiscriminate killings, extrajudicial executions, "disappearances" and several incidents of torture and harassment of civilians.
"To Amnesty International's knowledge, not a single navy officer has yet been arrested in connection with any of these incidents."