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Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Colombo unable to bury facts of ACF massacre

Fifth anniversary of the massacre of seventeen staffers of the French NGO, Action Contre la Faim (ACF), by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers falls on the 4th of August. Later investigations established that the workers, trapped inside their Moothoor branch office residence of ACF located close to Moothoor Cultural Centre, were shot and killed at point blank range, by SLA soldiers.
Colombo has continued to sabotage investigations, failed to provide protection for witnesses, and has failed to make public findings of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) report on the ACF killings. Meanwhile, a former wife of slain ACF worker, Premas Anandarajah, has filed a civil suit in the District Court of District of Columbia, U.S., against Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse as responsible for the crime, claiming damages of $30m (all three plaintiffs).

“Four of the victims were 24 years old and the oldest was 54. They were four women and thirteen men, and eleven were under the age of thirty. The killings of the 17 workers are said to be the most serious crime perpetrated against a non-governmental organisation. Four years after the massacre the perpetrators have yet to be brought to justice,” Sunday Leader said in its anniversary coverage.

Representatives of international relief agency Action Against Hunger, right, look on as workers exhume the remains of one of 17 aid workers. (Photo:AP)
Killed NGO workers
Relatives react after identifying the bodies of slain workers from the international aid agency Action Contre La Faim (ACF), at a hospital entrance in Trincomalee, August 8, 2006. (REUTERS)
Mahindana Wasanthan of Muttur lost a sister in the massacre; Kovarthani Kanavaratnam was 28 and single and died of gunshot wounds as the ACF base she was working in was overrun by armed men. Rasaiah Thurairajah lost his only son when 27 year old Pradeepan was shot dead in the attack.

“K. Ratnavale, the lawyer who represented the families in the Presidential Commission hearing and also represented ACF in the criminal courts told The Sunday Leader that the commission’s proceedings were ‘bungled’ by the ‘meddling’ of the Attorney General’s Department. He alleges that important evidence was disregarded and ignored. ‘There were several key witnesses from the victims’ families who could have given important information about what happened,’ said Ratnavale adding that witness protection programs were disrupted and finances were not provided for video conferencing with those family members who had fled abroad,” the paper added.

On the third anniversary of the killings, Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) quoted James Ross as saying, “[f]or three years since the ACF massacre, the Rajapaksa government has put on an elaborate song and dance to bedazzle the international community into believing justice is being done,” in a press release, adding, “the Sri Lankan government’s gross mishandling of the investigation into the execution-style slaying of 17 aid workers in the northeastern town of Mutur three years ago demonstrates the need for an international commission of inquiry.”

The International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP), tasked to monitor the progress of Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Commission of Inquiry (CoI), set up to investigate and inquire into serious violations of Human Rights, including the ACF killings, charged that there was no substantial progress since the inception of the Commission.

The IIGEP expressed concern in September 2007 that the Commission had not fulfilled its obligation of full disclosure and concluded that the investigation and inquiry process failed to comply effectively with international norms and standards.

The IIGEP later March 2008 unilaterally terminated its observation role.



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