UN urged to probe Matale grave

The United Nations (UN) has been called to assist in the investigations into the mass grave unearthed in Matale last year.

In a written statement submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, ahead of the 22nd session which begins tomorrow, the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a nongovernmental organization, has said that the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances should, through their experts, study the situation and the conduct of inquiries relating to the remains of the 200 or more persons found in Matale and assist the Sri Lankan government to ensure that these inquiries meet international standards.

The ALRC also suggested that the international community assists the Sri Lankan government with expertise, equipment and the necessary financial resources for the proper conduct of investigations as well as the preservation of these remains under ideal conditions, which are required for such purposes.

“The assumption so far is that these remains are of persons who were arrested as suspects of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna during the period of its second uprising, known usually as the second insurrection. The period was between 1987 and 1991. According to the reports of the commissions of inquiry into involuntary disappearances there were complaints to these commissions of disappearances of persons numbering around 30,000.,” the written submission said.

The ALRC and its sister organization, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), have documented numerous cases of enforced disappearances to the government and the UN Working Group.

“According to forensic experts who have so far done the preliminary work, the remains of the bodies indicate injuries and therefore the experts now regard the site containing these remains as a crime scene,” the written statement said.

The statement further stated that the assumption so far is that these remains are of persons who were arrested as suspects of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna during the period of its second uprising, known usually as the second insurrection between 1987 and 1991.

“Now that it has come to the notice of the authorities of the discovery of these remains in what may be called a mass grave it is the duty of the state to conduct thorough inquiries into the circumstances under which these persons have suffered the injuries which are evidenced by their remains and to ensure a credible course of action leading to the discovery of all the details relating to the alleged crimes,” the statement added.

ALRC says there are serious concerns about the manner in which the remains are being preserved and also the manner in which the inquiries are being conducted.

“There are detailed processes and techniques essential for the scientific investigation of atrocity crimes. These include methods for the location, evaluation, excavation, recovery and recording of mass graves and the analysis of human remains and other evidence in order to establish the identity of victims and the cause and manner of their deaths,” it said.

The ALRC is concerned that if international cooperation is not extended to Sri Lanka in the investigations then there is the possibility of the neglect of these remains which may lead to their destruction as a whole or in part and if the remains are not preserved under proper conditions their evidentiary value may progressively degenerate. (Colombo Gazette)