Chunnakam massacre and extra judicial killings of Tamils - 1984
"Amnesty International was concerned about reports of random killings of non combatant Tamil civilians by members of the security forces. It also remained concerned about the detention of Tamils... it continued to receive reports of widespread torture of detainees. Several reports of deaths in custody, allegedly as a result of torture or shooting were received..."
- Amnesty International Annual Report, 1985 for period January to December 1984
"Most of the dead are admitted to have been passers by, shot at random by vengeful infantrymen. They reportedly included men and women in their sixties...when the security services cannot find known suspects, they detain their fathers or brothers.." - Guardian 17 April 1984
"..In the past two months at least 100 Tamils in the northern province of Jaffna have been killed by security forces. all 'terrorists', but this is contradicted by the accounts of every independent observer who has visited Jaffna.
One typically disturbing incident occurred on the 28th of March, when air force personnel opened fire in the market place at Chunnakkam, a town about 8 miles outside Jaffna. Eight Tamils were shot dead and 22 others were wounded...
If the victims were really terrorists, one might expect that fact to come out at the inquest into the deaths. However no inquest will be held into the killings in Chunnakkam market place, nor into any of the other recent deaths of Tamil civilians. This is because of a rule called Emergency Regulation 15A which was introduced last June and which allows the security to dispose of any dead body as they see fit, without post mortem or inquest
The International Commission of Jurists (in their report of March 1984) is particularly scathing about Regulation 15A arguing that it is bound to be regarded as a 'deliberate device for covering up murder'. But President Jayawardene will not repeal it; rather, he and his new Minister of National Security, Lalith Athulathmudali, actually intend to strengthen the emergency rules. One of the new rules would effectively do way with the right of habeas corpus, which according to an official spokesman ' the Government considers as an unnecessary exercise.' - Francis Whelan, London Times 7 May 1984
"In respect of the killings on 28 March 1984, Amnesty International has concluded that there is strong evidence that the seven people shot dead in Chunnakam and the one man later shot dead at Mallakam died as a result of deliberate random shootings by airforce personnel" - Amnesty International Report, June 1984
" The crimes committed by the Sri Lankan State against the Tamil minority - against its physical security, citizenship rights, and political representation - are of growing gravity for the international community.
Other countries across the world, which have had to shelter the thousands of Tamil refugees who have fled and are still fleeing the island, must increasingly bear the cost of the denial of the fundamental political rights of the Tamils of Sri Lanka...
Report after report by impartial bodies - by Amnesty International, by the International Commission of Jurists, by parliamentary delegates from the West, by journalists and scholars - have set out clearly the scale of the growing degeneration of the political and physical well being of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka...
...everyone who possesses an elementary sense of justice has no moral choice but to acquaint himself fully with the plight of the Tamil people. It is an international issue of growing importance. Their cause represents the very essence of the cause of human rights and justice; and to deny it, debases and reduces us all." - David Selbourne, Ruskin College, Oxford in New York, July 1984
"The ethnic violence which erupted in Sri Lanka in July 1983 brought untold misery to the Tamils. They were beaten, hacked and burnt to death in a frenzy of racial hatred. Their houses and businesses were selectively looted and destroyed. The Sri Lankan government had admitted that the violence was pre planned and well organised and that even sections of the security forces joined in the attack against the Tamils.
53 Tamil detainees held in a maximum security prison were brutally killed on July 25th and July 27th. Yet to date no impartial inquiry into these violent attacks has taken place. Amnesty International (AI) recently reported a number of cases of extra judicial killings and secret disposal of bodies without inquest or post mortem. The AI and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) have also reported on a number of cases of torture and death in custody of persons detained incommunicado for period upto 18 months under the Sri Lankan Prevention of Terrorism Act.
'No legislation conferring remotely comparable powers is in force in any other free democracy... such a provision is an ugly blot on the statute book of any civilised country'(ICJ). The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution has virtually disenfranchised the country's 3 million Tamils by reason of the ban imposed on their political parties. This Amendment according to the ICJ, 'constitutes a clear violation by Sri Lanka of its obligations in international law'. The one million Tamils working in the tea plantations, who were deprived of nationality, citizenship and franchise in 1948 continue to remain stateless persons. We are of the opinion that:
* an impartial international commission should be set up to inquire into the violence against the Tamils in July 1983 including the killing of 53 Tamil detainees held in custody by the government
* the Prevention of Terrorism Act should be repealed and the powers given to the security forces which facilitate arbitrary killing of civilians and disposal of their bodies without inquest or post mortem should be rescinded
* the use of torture and incommunicado detention in violation of Sri Lanka's obligations under International Covenants should be discontinued
* the rights to nationality, citizenship and franchise to the Tamils working in the plantations should be restored
* the Sri Lankan government should repeal the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution and take meaningful steps to arrive at a political solution to the country's ethnic problem by the granting of the legitimate rights of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka." - David Alton MP, Paddy Ashdown MP, Norman Atkinson MP, Tony Banks MP, Prof John Barret, Kevin Barron MP, Alan Beith MP, Tony Benn MP, Gerry Berningham M.P., Prof Tom Bottomore, Sydney Bidwell MP, Malcolm Bruce MP, Dale Campbell-Savours MP, Dennis Canavan MP, Alex Carlile MP, Tom Clarke MP, Bob Clay MP, Anne Clwyd MP, Harry Cohan MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Ron Davis MP, Eric Deakins MP, Alf Dubs MP, Professor Michael Dummet, Derek Fatchett MP, Mark Fisher MP, Martin Flannery MP, Roy Hattersley MP, Michael Foot MP, Simon W.H. Hughes MP, Lord Jenkins, Russel Johnston MP, Sir David Lane,, Robert Kilroy Silk MP, Archy Kirkwood MP, Ted Knight, Terry Lewis MP, Bob Litherland MP, Ken Livingstone, Tony Lloyd MP, Eddie Loyden MP, Max Madden MP, Joan Maynard MP, Willie McKelvy MP, Bill Michie MP, Dr.Paul Noone, Bob Parry MP, Alan Roberts MP, Ernie Roberts MP, Allan Rogers MP, Aubrey Rose, Ernie Ross MP, Steven Ross MP, Clare Short MP, Dennis Skinner MP, Prof Peter Townsend, Jim Wallace MP, Gareth Wardell MP, Dafydd Wigley MP and many others, The Guardian, 28 July 1984
"Despite denials by the government there... is credible evidence that the Sri Lanka security forces have repeatedly engaged in reprisals against civilian population centres in the northern province, burning houses and shops and randomly shooting civilians because of attacks by Tamil guerillas." - International Herald Tribune, 14 August 1984
"I left Sri Lanka most concerned that the terrible breaches of human rights of 1983 could well be repeated. Sri Lanka managed to stave off a United Nations investigation of the July 1983 violence by promises that have not been kept and other democratic nations should bring pressure to avoid the further outbreaks of communal hatreds that threaten and that will lead to further destruction of human rights" - Senator A.L.Missen, Chairman, Australian Parliamentary Group of Amnesty International, Report on visit to Sri Lanka, June-August 1984
"Army authorities conducting operations (in August 1984), asked the local population to produce male teen agers, undertaking that they would be questioned and immediately released after checking their identity. The children were arrested, tortured and transported like cattle by lorries with barbed wire to unknown prisons in the South.
Only 32 of the younger children were released. Not even the government agent has been informed where the children are being kept... More recently, on the 12th and the 13th of August, security forces set fire to the town of Mannar and near by towns in retaliation for a bomb blast some 40 miles away in an uninhabited area. More than 3000 are said to have lost their homes and the soldiers, according to the Roman Catholic Bishop of Mannar, rampaged through the town..." - M.C.Bandare, Indian Expert at Sessions of the UN Sub Commission on Protection of Minorities, Geneva 21 August 1984
"...Yes, I believe Amnesty International's conclusions that there have been extra judicial killings in Sri Lanka; that the government's anti terrorism laws are brutal, repressive and inherently anti democratic; and yes, I believe that the process of disenfranchising anyone who believes in a potential solution that is not consistent with the majority view is completely anti democratic...
The United States cannot simply write off murder and systematic discrimination as an 'internal matter' when the country happens to be non aligned and is willing to say nice things about our country. We should be putting pressure on President Jayawardene to move to resolve the terrible, terrible divisions within his country...We must let the Sri Lanka government know that we will not tolerate a government that is in any way complicit in the killing of its own citizens." - Councilman Noach Dear of the Council of the City of New York, at Congressional Hearings, August 1984
''Sri Lankan forces are conducting a harsh and remorseless campaign of intimidation among the islands' Tamil minority. By means of random murder, indiscriminate shootings, beatings, torture and plunder, ill disciplined and trigger happy soldiers keep the Tamils in the North in a state of constant fear...
Many thousands of people, mostly women and children, have fled to India and to Europe. Thousands of youths have been rounded up and held in Army camps. Their parents do not know where they are: they have become Sri Lanka's disappeared ones... The army's rampages, massacres and brutality have swung even moderate Tamil opinion against the authorities..
There is strong evidence of beating, torture and murder of young men in Army custody... Troops have been looting and burning houses. Many women have complained of being robbed of jewellery...
Military restrictions and the army's savage response have almost shut down the economy of this region...The Bishop of Jaffna said:' People live in fright and despair. They feel helpless. There is no equality or democracy left here anymore.' ...It is a part of the Sri Lankan tragedy that the government has come to define the long smouldering Tamil question as simply one of terrorist eradication. Sinhalese antipathy to Tamils, rooted in ancient fears of conquest has been stirred up.
With emotions running high, the conflict has its strong element of propaganda and disinformation. The government's case is that it is acting firmly against a terrorist threat to the country's integrity. But the Tamils, who form a fifth of the population, believe that the army is being used to subjugate them and to settle historic scores." - Trevor Fishlock, London Times, 31 December 1984
"Allegations have recently reached Amnesty International of widespread killings in the Mannar area on 4 December 1984 by personnel of the security forces apparently in reprisal for the killing of a soldier when a landmine exploded...the scale of these killings is unprecedented. It is alleged that at least ninety unarmed civilians, nearly all Tamils, many of them old men, women, and children, were shot dead..." - Amnesty International Report on Sri Lanka, 9 January 1985
"The Mannar massacre is a case in point. On 4 December 1984, a vehicle carrying an army patrol was blown up by a mine on the road leading through the jungle to the small northern town. One soldier was killed and 11 wounded.
In the carnage that followed, troops poured out of their camps and according to the twonspeople, killed more than 100 civilians. One group stopped a bus... and then shot all the ... male passengers... Another twenty died when the same treatment was meted out to a busload of passengers travelling in the opposite direction.
Off the main road, an army jeep drove into the village of Parappankadal. The soldiers fired indiscriminately, killing 12 of people including a mother nursing her infant child. The child survived though three toes were blow away by the bullet that killed its mother." (Michael Hamlyn reporting in the London Times, 18 February 1985)
" Who is a terrorist? Is he the person who uses a gun? Or is he also not a terrorist who accompanies a terrorist with a gun? Is he not also a terrorist who gives a house to a person who has a gun and who wants to kill? Is he also not a terrorist who watches the movement of the army and then goes and tells a terrorist: do not go that way, the army is around?" - Sri Lanka National Security Minister Lalith Athulathmudali in Sri Lanka Parliament, December 1984