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Sri Lanka: Demanding justice for the victims of the ‘Sathurukondan massacre’ in 1990

On 9 September 2023, we solemnly commemorate the 33rd memorial day of the
enforced disappearances and arbitrary killings that devastated the villages of Sathurukondan, Pilliyaradi, Kokkuvil, and Panichalady in the Manmunai North Division of Batticaloa, located in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. This tragic incident occurred on 9 September 1990, a day etched in our collective memory, as it forever altered the lives of the people in these communities. As we gather at the Sathurukondan memorial statue, we remember the 186 innocent souls who were cruelly taken from us.

On that fateful day in 09 September 1990, men, women, and children from Sathurukondan and neighboring villages found themselves surrounded by the Sri Lankan military at around 5:30 pm. They were forcibly transported to the Sathurukondan Army camp, where they met a horrifying fate. Among the 186 people killed, there were 38 individuals from Sathurukondan, 39 from Panichalady, 62 from Pillaiyaradi, and 47 from Kokkuvil. This number included women, infants, pregnant mothers, and the elderly – a stark reminder of the indiscriminate nature of this tragedy.

Despite the passage of 33 years since this grave human rights violation, and despite numerous initiatives and investigations into this incident, justice remains elusive for the affected families.

We firmly assert that justice must be served for our beloved relatives, and we call upon both the Sri Lankan government and the international community to hold accountable those responsible for the heinous crimes committed by the Sri Lankan army.

This massacre occurred in the North-Eastern territories during the presidency of Ranasinghe Premadasa. In 1997, an inquiry was established by then-President Chandrika Kumaratunga to investigate these atrocities. This inquiry identified three officers as responsible for the killings.

Retired Justice K. Balakidner, who presided over the investigation, declared that there was
compelling evidence of the massacre and urged then-President Chandrika Kumaratunga to ensure those responsible faced justice. Regrettably, the government at that time failed to take any meaningful steps in this regard.

Now, after 33 long years, we, the survivors and families of the victims, continue to advocate tirelessly for justice and implore the Government of Sri Lanka to assume full responsibility for the Sathurukondan massacre.

It is important to recognize that disappearances and killings have occurred not only in
Sathurukondan but also in numerous suburban areas, especially in the North Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka, during the course of the civil war. As we observe the 33rd anniversary of the disappearance and murder of those in Sathurukondan, we stand united in our plea for justice, not just for our loved ones but for all those who have suffered similar fates in these remote regions.

1. The Sri Lankan government should proceed with the legal case related to this massacre.
2. Fair justice should be made available to the victims.
3. The perpetrators should be brought to justice and held accountable for their actions.
4. Ensure a conducive environment to carry out commemorations for those affected.
5. A commitment to preventing the recurrence of such incidents should be assured, and the government should outline its initiatives towards achieving this goal.

Victims and survivors of this incident from Sathurukondan Pilliyaradi, Kokkuvil, and Panichalady

Manmunai North,
Batticaloa
9 September 2023

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