Rapes and Murders in Occupied Jaffna

Place: Jaffna | Date: 19961000

"Allegations of ill-treatment of women and extra-judicial executions are also being made against the security forces. Reports say that three women were raped by soldiers at their home in Manthuvil on 1 August." British Refugee Council Publication, Sri Lanka Monitor, August 1996

"Vanni MP S Shanmugnathan says a n umber of women at the Poonthottam school camp have been sexually abused by the police. A woman who was raped has been admitted to the Vavuniya hospital. Pregnant women have been denied access to the hospital and one woman has died in labour" -British Refugee Council Publication, Sri Lanka Monitor, November 1996

"Of the numerous arrests, rapes and murders of the girls and boys in Jaffna, one comes to light. Most, however, go unreported because the Sri Lankan army bans independent reporters from traveling to the peninsula, and the government censors news about condi- tions in Jaffna.

On Saturday Sep. 7,1996, Krishanthi Kumarasamy, an 18 year old student at Chundikuli Girls' High School went missing, soon after she had taken her first paper at the GCE A/L examination. She was seen by a number of witnesses being taken into custody by Sinhala army personnel at the Kaithady checkpoint, and she disappeared soon after. According to a report published later in the Sri Lanka Sunday Times (Nov 3,1996), "She was stopped at the checkpoint and three soldiers allegedly raped her until she fell unconscious. When she revived, according to the confessions, police officers and six soldiers further raped her."

On learning of Krishanthi's detention at the army check-point, her mother, Rasamma (59), who was the vice principal of Kaithady Maha Vithyalayam, accompanied by her son, Pranaban (16), and a neighbor, Kirupakaran Sithamparam (35), went to the army camp, and then they too disappeared. The same Sri Lanka Sunday Times report said, "Herjourney was not only futile but she, her son and neighbor were strangled, cut into pieces and buried in a little hut within the gates of the arm camp."

Krishanthi's relatives in Colombo, including her older sister, Prashanthi (21), who was staying in Colombo at that time, took up the matter with authorities in Colombo, including President Kumaratunga, but nothing was done as the army headquarters denied the arrests. On Sep 20th, Amnesty International published an Urgent Action Appeal (UA 222/96), and even at this stage the government remained silent.

On Oct 23, more than 6 weeks after their disappearances, the Colombo-based Tamil daily Virakesari published the story. Although none of the other newspapers published it, things began to heat up. The matter was raised in Parliament, and all of a sudden the four bodies buried in a shallow grave within the army camp were found.

Tip of an iceberg? Tamil Voice has information that this kind of atrocities are quite rampant in the Jaffna peninsula, and in other Tamil areas occupied by the Sri Lankan army. This is not an isolated incident... The reason for lack of publicity is the unofficial ban on independent reporters and human rights organizations from visiting these areas... A recent Asia Watch report said, "the army only permits access to the state run media." Foreign humanitarian organizations that are allowed to function in these areas are ones who (by charter) do not publish such crimes. They consider such silence necessary for them to be able to carry out their primary humanitarian work.

News pertaining to large scale violations, such as those in the peninsula, however, is difficult to conceal. A Tamil Voice editor had an opportunity to meet with a number of new refugees who had escaped recently to Tamil Nadu by boat. He reports that, their accounts are "horror stories from hell."

A large number of Tamil men and women are reportedly being held in the Kankesanthurai police premises in the army-held Jaffna peninsula. They are reported to have been arrested between 30 Mar 96 and 29 Aug 96. The Government Agent of the army occupied Jaffna peninsula published a list of names and details of only 135 Tamils, out of the 740 who the armed forces admitted to holding at the Kankesanthurai police station. He has also reported that nearly a hundred Tamil girls are missing. Several incidents of rapes and molestations were also reported.

"On Sep 30 at about 3.20 PM Velauthapillai Rajani, 22, from Urumpirai North was arrested in Kondavil-Urumpirai Road by the Sri Lankan army. This arrest was seen by several people. Rajani, who was planning to leave to Canada, went to see her relatives in Kondavil to say good-bye. On her way she was stopped by the Sri Lankan soldiers manning the

Kondavil checkpoint and was dragged into a house where two elderly people were living. The soldiers chased the two occupants out of the house and Rajani was raped. Her naked body was found later in the compound."

Another report stated, "Vasuki, a young Tamil girl living in Kilner Lane was harassed by Sri Lankan soldiers from the army camp next to her house. On Sep 8, Vasuki was watching TV at her home between 11 PM and 12 PM at night when 4 Sri Lankan soldiers in civil dress and 2 soldiers in army uniform came into her house and tried to take her away by force. She and her neighbors raised cries and the soldiers fled with Vasuki's National Identity card."

On Saturday morning August 7, a Sri Lankan military truck rammed into a group of school girls who were cycling to the Examination hall for their GCE (A/L) examinations. Nineteen year old, Thayananthi Kananathan from Ariyalai, a student of Chundukuli Girls college was killed on the spot."

"On Sep 10, a 55 year old woman employed in the Thirunelvely Co-operative Milk Society was gang-raped by Sri Lankan Army personnel."

In Kachchai a husband who tried to prevent the rape of his wife was cut to death. His wife was also murdered later."

These arejust a few of the hundreds of incidents reported to Tamil Voice.The rape and murder of Krishanthi isjust one of them. (Tamil Voice, published by the USBasedllankai Thamil Sangam, Fall 1996, edited by Dr.Rajan Sriskandarajah M.D.)