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Bindunuwewa massacre accused receive death sentences

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 01 July 2003, 14:51 GMT]
Two Sri Lankan Police officers and three Sinhala civilians, accused of involvement in the gruesome massacre of 27 inmates of rehabilitation camp for young Tamil persons on October 2000, were sentenced to death Tuesday by a three member bench Trial at Bar, legal sources in Colombo said.

Funeral of Vaisvaparam Rubeshkumar, one of the victim killed during an attack on Bindunuwewa detention centre
According to witnesses, four boys were burnt alive while one’s neck was severed with an electric hacksaw. Two of the victims were boys under seventeen. The majority were between 18-25 years. The mass murder in the Bindunuwewa Rehabilitation Camp located in the hill district of Bandarawela, drew attention to the level vulnerability to which Tamil political prisoners are exposed in Sri Lankan prisons. Two decades ago, in July 1983, forty-eight Tamil political prisoners were gruesomely massacred in a maximum-security prison in Colombo.

All the other suspects in the Trial at Bar were acquitted by the bench. There were forty-four suspects in the case, among whom nineteen were Policemen. Sinhala nationalists carried out campaigns to free the Policemen accused in the case.

The Police officers sentenced to death Tuesday were the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the Bandarawela Police station Inspector of Police (IP) Senaka Karunasena and Sub Inspector of the Diyatalawa Police station, Roger Ratnayake.

Bindunuwewa accused
Accused police officers of Bindunuwewa massacre, Senaka Karunasena and Roger Ratnayake being led to the prison from the High Court(Photo: Veerakesari)

When the sentence was read out, OIC Karunasena berated the Sri Lankan legal system for finding him guilty. Earlier this year, an all Sinhala jury acquitted all Sri Lanka army soldiers accused in the massacre of 35 Tamil villagers in the east.

The majority of mass murders of Tamils in the northeast by Sri Lankan armed forces either remain un-investigated or cases filed in Sri Lankan courts have been dragging inconclusively over long periods or the accused were let off with very lenient sentences according to a Tamil human rights activist in Batticaloa. “Sri Lanka’s legal system is such that its armed forces naturally expect it to work in their favour automatically. And experience did not proved them wrong”, he said.

In the early hours of 24 October 2000 a gang of persons entered the Rehabilitation Camp armed with knives, axes and clubs and attacked the inmates of the Bindunuwewa Rehabilitation Camp while most of them were asleep. The gruesome manner in which the young prisoners were murdered shocked Tamils, across the political spectrum in Sri Lanka. The Sinhala press, however, portrayed the massacre as a valiant attempt by the Police to contain a revolt by incarcerated Liberation Tigers. Sections of the hardcore Sinhala nationalist press gave prominence to spurious stories that a one of the inmates was the agent provocateur of the massacre.

According to a witness who gave evidence in the case, a boy who was attacked with machetes by Policemen and civilians associated with a Sinhala nationalist group extricated himself from his attackers and fell at the feet of a senior Police officer who had come to the scene, begging that his life be spared.

Nevertheless, the boy, according to the witness, was hacked to death while he was pleading with the Police officer to save his life. The Police officer had looked on while the boy was done to death, the witness said.

Another witness said that he saw a Policeman standing by the body of a victim that had been set on fire at the camp’s main entrance when he went there on the day of the massacre.

Eleven bodies of the inmates were charred beyond recognition. These are lying in the Sri Lankan Police mortuary unclaimed as yet. During the proceedings it transpired that bullets had been removed from the body of a victim. The Police investigators failed to find the bullets during the course of trial.

Tamil Politicians have charged that case helped to cover up the role of Sinhala racist groups that were involved in the massacre.


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