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33rd commemoration of Sathurukondan massacre renews calls for international justice

Image courtesy of ibctamil.com

On September 9th, at the monument dedicated to the Sathurukondan massacre in Batticaloa, activists, political leaders, and the general public gathered to mark the 33rd anniversary of the tragic event. The somber remembrance included offerings of flowers and the lighting of oil lamps in memory of the lives lost in the massacre.

During the commemoration, speakers reiterated their deep-seated mistrust in Sri Lanka's judiciary to deliver justice for the victims of the massacre. They recalled the findings of two Presidential Commissions of Inquiry, including the three-member Commission chaired by Justice Krishnapillai Palakidner appointed by former President Chandrika Bandaranaike-Kumaratunga, which had meticulously documented the extent of the tragedy.

Despite these inquiries, which exposed the horrifying details of the massacre, not a single individual has been arrested or held accountable for the atrocities. Consequently, those gathered at the commemoration issued a resounding call for an international mechanism to investigate the Sathurukondan massacre and ensure justice is served.

Image courtesy of ibctamil.com

The Sathurukondan massacre unfolded on September 9th and 10th, 1990, when military personnel from the Civil Defense Force, formerly known as the Home Guard Force, and the Sri Lanka Army, stationed at the Sathurukondan Boys Town Army camp, entered several villages, including Sathurukondan, Panichchaiyadi, Kokkuvil, and Pillaiyaradi.

Armed with orders to investigate and apprehend civilians, they began rounding up residents. Fearful of being targeted, many men in these families sought refuge in forests, palmyrah groves, and among mangroves to evade arrest.

This resulted in primarily the arrest of children, women, and senior citizens, resulting in a horrific toll. A total of 187 people were massacred, including five infants, 42 children under the age of 10, 85 women (nine of whom were pregnant), 28 senior citizens, and the remaining individuals were men.

Bishop Kingsley Swamipillai, who visited the vicinity of the camp on September 10th, saw charred bodies and skeletons, bearing witness to the brutality of the massacre. Bishop Swamipillai’s experience was recorded for the segment Witness produced by BBC Radio, which can be downloaded and listened to here.

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