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10th anniversary of 'Trinco 5' killings, still no justice

Photograph Tamilnet

Today marks the 10 years since the murder of five Tamil students, committed by Sri Lanka's Special Task Force, whilst they spent an afternoon on the beach in Trincomalee.

A memorial service was held in Trinco to remember the students that were killed by Sri Lanka's special forces.

Speaking at the event, the Trinco-based rights activist Jathindra called on the people to be proactive in their struggle for justice. Such memorial events should not only be for remembrance but also to unify Tamils in their actions, he said.


Photograph: TamilNet

The five slain students, who were all 21-years-old when killed, are:

Manoharan Ragihar (22.09.1985)

Yogarajah Hemachchandra (04.03.1985)

Logitharajah Rohan (07.04.1985)

Thangathurai Sivanantha (06.04.1985)

Shanmugarajah Gajendran (16.09.1985)

To this day, no-one has been brought to justice for the murders.

Earlier this year 12 people, including an Assistant Superintendent of Police, were remanded over the killings. To date, none have been brought to trial. Instead, 2013 saw Kapila Jayasekara, who reportedly spearheaded the executions, promoted to DIG in the Amparai district.

See a report by Tamils Against Genocide (TAG) into the murders, which indicates Jayasekara was present during the incident, with 6-7 armed masked soldiers, here.

'We know the STF did it'


Photograph: TamilNet

Shortly after the murders, journalist Subramaniyam Sugirdharajan was shot dead after publishing photos showing the bodies of the 5 students with point-blank gunshot injuries, disproving government claims that they were killed by a grenade explosion.


In a
leaked US Embassy cable from Colombo in October 2006, the then US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert O. Blake met with Sri Lankan Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa.

 
The cable stated,

"Speaking with surprising candor, Rajapaksa explained the GSL's efforts to prove that members of the Security Task Force (STF) murdered five students in Trincomalee in January: "We know the STF did it, but the bullet and gun evidence shows that they did not.  They must have separate guns when they want to kill some one. We need forensic experts. We know who did it, but we can't proceed in prosecuting them."

'Unable or unwilling'

The killings drew condemnation from various human rights organisations, with Jim McDonald, Sri Lanka Country Specialist of Amnesty International USA telling the Sunday Leader in 2013,

“The failure to properly investigate this case despite a recommendation by a Presidential Commission of Inquiry established in 2006 and repeated in the 2011 report of the LLRC, clearly shows that Sri Lanka is either unable or unwilling to ensure accountability for human rights violations, leading victims and their families to seek justice at the international level”.

Brad Adams, the Asia Pacific Director of Human Rights Watch, also said last year,

"The government has claimed this case is a priority, including it in the now forgotten presidential commission of inquiry and in its response to the UN Human Rights Council, but actual progress in this case is sadly nonexistent".

'They killed my son'

The case became a rallying point for protestors, with over 700 activists in New York demanding justice for the killings, in 2012.

Also in 2012, Amnesty International launched a “Write-for-Rights” campaign, highlighting the case of the “Trinco 5” and called for genuine investigations into this and the countless other human rights violations on the island.

See the video below to hear Dr Manoharan, the father of one of the victims, speak about the campaign.

Also see Amnesty International’s film on the murders entitled “Sri Lanka – Tell the Truth” below.