Tamil prisoners murdered in custody

Place: Kalutara prison | Courtesy: Amnesty
| Date: 19971215

"Amnesty International today appealed to Sri Lanka's Minister of Justice to order a full and impartial inquiry into the killing of three Tamil detainees on 12 December at Kalutara prison, south of the capital, Colombo. In its letter to Professor G. L. Peiris, the human rights organization expressed concern for the safety of other detainees who witnessed the killings and are currently under guard by prison staff who may have been involved in the act. Amnesty International urges that all necessary steps be taken to protect these witnesses.

During a magisterial inquiry into the killings, several detainees who reportedly saw the killings refused to give evidence out of fear for their lives. To Amnesty International's knowledge, those responsible have not yet been identified. Muthulingam Dharmalingam and Shanmugarajah Sivanesan, from Jaffna, and Sharif Jehan, a displaced person from Mannar, were among 137 Tamil detainees held at Kalutara prison. The three were reportedly hacked to death in front of Ward D at around 1 pm on 12 December by a group of Sinhalese common criminal prisoners in what appears to have been a premeditated attack.

Prison staff and army personnel deployed at the prison appear to have failed to take measures to protect the Tamil detainees at the time and, according to some reports, were even actively involved in the attack which lasted more than an hour. According to some sources, prison staff had opened the gate to Ward D around 11 am, and ignored pleas made in the next two hours by several of the Tamil detainees to lock the gate. Reports also indicate that an armed soldier on sentry duty on the southern side of the prison ignored pleas for protection from the three detainees while they were hacked to death in front of him.

Army personnel and prison staff are also said to have failed to take action against a group of civilians who had gathered outside the prison and were throwing stones and other objects into the prison throughout the attack..... the human rights organization urges the government to initiate a review of measures to safeguard the security of political prisoners held in the same prisons as common criminal suspects and convicts, albeit in separate wards." (Amnesty International Press Release, 15 December 1997 ASA 37/30/97)

Jail attack was planned - survivors

[TamilNet, December 13, 1997]

"The attack on Tamil political prisoners had a political motive and was quite clearly premeditated" said Mr. Dharmalingam Sidarthan MP for Vavuniya and leader of the PLOTE speaking to the Tamil Net this afternoon after returning from a visit to the Kalutara prison and the Nagoda hospital earlier today.

He spoke to the Tamil youth who were brutally attacked yesterday by a mob of Sinhala convicts while the jail guards and army stood by. He also spoke to the injured youth who are being treated in the Nagoda hospital.

The Tamil political prisoners, according to him, had suspected an impending attack on them yesterday and had taken the necessary precaution by locking themselves inside block B of the jail premises where they are being held.

The attack began as they had expected; and the Sinhala mob attempted to break through the main entrance of block B.

Efforts by the Tamil prisoners to hold on to the gate failed as the mob threw chilli powder and poured boiling water on them.

The Sinhala mob was also armed with swords. Unable to block the main entrance any longer in the face of this vicious attack, the Tamil prisoners had run into their cells and locked themselves in. Three prisoners , however, slipped and fell while running towards the safety of their cells.

The mob caught up with them and attacked them with swords, killing two of them on the spot. The other Tamil youth who was trapped thus, ran towards a military sentry nearby and pleaded with the soldier to save him.

But the army sentry just stood by as the mob caught the boy and hacked him to death.

Mr. Sidarthan said that the attack was very much like the one in the Welikada prison July 1983 in which 53 Tamil political prisoners were brutally massacred.

The Tamil political prisoners said today that they should immediately be transferred to the Welikada prison in Colombo and that only political prisoners should be held in that jail.

London vigil over Kalutara massacre

[TamilNet, December 20, 1997]

About 400 Tamil people staged a vigil opposite the British Prime Minister's residence today, to protest over the massacre of Tamil political detainees in Kalutara prison on December 12. The vigil was organised by the Tamil Centre for Human Rights (TCHR).

The protesters gathered opposite Downing Street today, behind a large banner which read 'Release Tamil political prisoners from Sri Lankan jails'. The crowd held placards denouncing the massacre and calling for its condemnation.

The vigil was staged from 4pm to 7pm, coinciding with the London rush hour. Much of the event took place after dark, illuminated by street lights and the headlights of the hundreds of vehicles which go through Whitehall at this time every day.

A letter was handed over to British officials at the Prime Minister's residence by a group of four women and two men, copies of which were made available to the press. The letter called for a condemnation of the massacre and asked support for an international investigation.

The letter also asked the British government to impress on the Sri Lankan government to halt the killings of Tamil political detainees.

Ms. Mann of the TCHR told TamilNet that her organisation was pleased with the response to the vigil, as it had been called in a short period of time. The police had to extend the protective barricade to cater for the larger than expected crowd, she said.

Considerable interest was generated amongst the tourists visiting the Whitehall area, as well as the large numbers of people traveling home through the area, said organisers. [Human Rights] [TamilCanadian Home] [Feedback]
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