Escapee details 18-year detention, torture in STF camp

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 27 April 2004, 15:17 GMT]
A Tamil youth arrested in 1986 by the Special Task Force of the Sri Lanka Army at Kaluwanchikudy in the Batticaloa district, and assumed dead, has escaped last week from an STF camp where he was held incommunicado for 18 years, and has detailed the torture and killings by the STF that took place in the camp and elsewhere to Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), sources in Batticaloa told TamilNet.

Mr. Kanagaratnam Shanmuganathan, 40, of Murugan Kovilady, Siththandy, in the Batticaloa district was arrested by the STF 18 years ago at the STF checkpoint in Kaluwanchikudy when he was on his way to work in a rice mill in Kalmunai.

PrisonMr. Shanmuganathan said that the STF tortured him and then moved him to the Kuruwitta Sri Lanka Army camp, where he was held incommunicado. On the way to Kuruwitta, Mr. Shanmuganathan said he saw about 25 Tamil people in Amparai being shot dead by Sri Lanka Armed forces.

In the Kuruwitta camp, more than 300 Tamil men were held since 1990, and whenever there were attacks in the North-East against Sri Lanka Armed forces, the detainees were tortured and many were killed. Out of the 158 refugees who were abducted by Sri Lanka Armed forces from the Eastern University in 1990 and presumed killed, Mr. Shanmuganathan said he saw three, Nagalingam Arulanantharajah, Kandumani Yogeswaran and Sihamani Puvikamalan, all of Kommanthurai, in the camp where he was held.

Mr. Shanmuganathan has informed Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) about the existence of the camp and that he could identify its location and the people who are held there.

In seeking to rebuild his life, Mr. Shanmuganathan faces several challenges. When he returned, his wife was already dead. His daughter, who was 2 years old when he was arrested, and has lived with relatives since her mother died, does not recognize him. As his whereabouts were not known for a long time, his wife registered him as dead and obtained compensation. Now he has no identification papers, and when he applied for a new identification card, his Grama Sevaka (Village Officer) has told him that as his ‘death’ was registered, he could not provide any help with new identity papers.

Mr. Shanmuganathan, who was 22 when he was arrested, said that during the 18 year detention he had no knowledge of the outside world and it was a very dark period in his life. The detention and torture have left him very ill, and he looks much older than his age. Though he was eager to return to relatives, he realizes that there are not many relatives left, and says he feels an emptiness.

 

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