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‘I killed them, I killed them, I killed them’

A collage of some of the disappeared LTTE leaders, clergy and children who surrendered to the Sri Lankan military in 2009.

The former US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Stephen Rapp revealed that Sri Lanka’s current president Gotabaya Rajapaksa admitted to killing LTTE leaders instead of arresting or putting them on trial after surrender in 2009, during an offensive that saw tens of thousands of Tamils massacred.

Speaking at an online discussion organised by the Global Tamil Forum, Canadian Tamil Congress and the Sri Lankan Campaign, Rapp who was formerly with the US Office of Global Criminal Justice, recalled a conversation with Rajapaksa, who was then still serving as Sri Lanka’s defence secretary.

When asked about whether LTTE leaders could have been charged for human rights violations, Rapp said that the “government hated the LTTE”.

“I remember raising this issue with defence secretary Gotabaya, now President Rajapaksa when I was there,” Rapp told the online discussion. He went on to state,

“Of course, recalling, that many of the individuals that could have been charged were in fact, according to credible evidence, killed after surrender. The numbers are around 360 that were given out.

I remember the defence secretary saying, “Oh, trials, trials, you know they go on so long and people get off”.

And then he said, “I killed them, I killed them, I killed them”.

See the clip of Rapp speaking and the full video of the webinar below.

The true number of those who were executed by the Sri Lankan security forces during the Mullivaikkal massacres is still not known. Hundreds of people who surrendered to the military remain forcibly disappeared, including non-combatants, whole families with children and Christian clergy.

Amongst the higher-profile known executions was B Nadesan, the political head of the LTTE. Nadesan was executed by Sri Lankan security forces, as he attempted to surrender, walking towards soldiers with a white flag as instructed.

Balachandran Prabhakaran, who was the third child of LTTE leader Prabhakaran, was also executed by the Sri Lankan military during the final days of the Mullivaikkal massacre. Aged just 12 years old, he was one of thousands of children killed by the Sri Lankan military. Leaked trophy photographs taken by Sri Lankan soldiers, show the child in their custody sitting with a snack in his hand, sitting on a bench surrounded by sandbags, in what looks like a fortified army position.

A 2018 study estimated that over 500 Tamils were forcibly disappeared in just three days, after surrendering to the Sri Lankan army in May 2009.

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