Exhume Chemmani graves - Amnesty

[TamilNet, Monday, 03 August 1998, 23:59 GMT]
Amnesty International, the London based human rights watchdog, appealed today to the Attorney General of Sri Lanka "to allow the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRC) to jointly carry out preliminary investigations of the site at Chemmani, Jaffna with the help of leading forensic experts in the country".

In a press release, Amnesty asked the Attorney General "to ensure that the CID and HRC investigations were properly conducted" and "to ensure that the investigations of the site, including any exhumation was impartially and independently conducted in such a way that any evidence collected was admissible in court".

Amnesty also called on the Sri Lankan government to invite "international forensic experts with specific experience of excavating and examining [bodies] in situ relevant to the specific type of exhumation required at Chemmani."

It is the experience of leading forensic experts around the world that the exhumation of bodies piled on top of each other in restricted places, such as lavatory pits and wells, is one of the most complex forms of exhumations to carry out, said Amnesty.

The organization urged that, if this is confirmed by the preliminary investigations, that forensic experts with experience of exhumations of bodies in such conditions be invited to assist local experts in the exhumations.

Chemmani is alleged to be a place where the bodies of hundreds of people who "disappeared" whilst in military custody in Jaffna have been clandestinely buried.

The revelations about mass graves in Jaffna became public in the trial of Sri Lankan soldiers and policemen for the multiple rape and murder of Jaffna schoolgirl Krishanthi Kumaraswamy, along woth the murder of her mother, brother and a neighbour.

At the trial, one of the soldiers denied murder and said that he had only helped bury the bodies. He went onto say that the bodies of 300 or 400 people were buried in the Chemmani area.

The bodies of the four victims had also been recovered from the site, said Amnesty.

In a report published last year, Amnesty International said it had found reliable evidence suggesting that the bodies of as many as 600 people who "disappeared" in the Jaffna peninsula after the Sri Lankan Army moved into the area, may have been disposed of in lavatory pits, disused wells and shallow graves.

Amnesty International also appealed to the Attorney General to ensure that, while forensic expertise is sought, all necessary steps are taken to safeguard the area suspected of containing the mass graves, including by ensuring round-the-clock security.

There have already been several calls for the government to secure the area, to prevent interference with the evidence at the site.


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