The Magistrate court in Mannar has ordered a comprehensive report to be submitted on the Sathosa mass grave in the Mannar district.
A total of 318 bodies, including that of 18 children, were discovered at this mass grave in May 2019, when construction work was being carried out at the local supermarket Sathosa, near the A14 highway by construction workers. Subsequently, excavations were carried out with the Officer of the Missing Persons acting as an independent observer.
According to the report on mass graves and failed exhumations by the International Truth and Justice Project “among the objects that were recovered were metal bindings which had been used to tie legs together.”
Six skeletal samples were sent to Beta Analytics Inc. in Florida, USA to determine the age of the grave. Analysis by the firm dated the grave to be between 1477 and 1719, where expert opinions of investigators involved in the excavation and exhumation claim that the grave could not have been more than 30 years old.
The skeletal remains that have been exhumed are currently in the custody of the Magistrate court. Mannar's Magistrate court ordered a comprehensive report on 5th July. This was after a hearing in which witnesses representing up to 27 various departments testified. Lawyers representing the state, the Chief Judicial Medical Officer, the Office of Missing Persons, the victims, and the Sri Lanka Army were also present.
The court also issued an order that the Police should provide protection to the site so that it remains undisturbed and further contamination to be prevented.
The legal teams of all the stakeholders present unanimously agreed that further excavations and exhumations of human remains, if there are any, need not be immediately carried out.
However, the attorneys appearing on behalf of the families of the disappeared requested that the court issue an order to produce a comprehensive report on the mass grave. This should include a comprehensive report by the Chief JMO on all the procedures that had been carried out so far, what are the operational framework that needs to be further implemented, and how they should be implemented. Additionally, similar reports from forensic archeologist Prof. Raj Somadeva, the Police, and other relevant experts should be included in the comprehensive report.
The lawyers argued that only after the comprehensive report has been submitted and studied by the court and the relevant legal representatives can it be determined if further excavations need to be carried out.
It should be noted that the lawyers appearing on behalf of the families of the disappeared had issued a complaint against the Chief JMO Dr. Saminda Rajapakshe, alleging that he had misled investigations.