On January 5th, 2008, the CoI began holding public sessions of inquiry into Case No. 5 concerning the killing of five youths and the near death of two other youths in Trincomalee on or about 2nd January 2006. These past couple weeks IIGEP, as one of their last duties, has been working with the CoI to conduct the presentation of evidence via video-teleconference from witnesses to the events in Trincomalee who have since fled to other countries. Even while residing outside of Sri Lanka, the witnesses’ locations have been kept confidential by IIGEP to ensure their security and the CoI has agreed to disallow any questions that might lead to a breach of this confidentiality.
As the first time ever for evidence via video-teleconference in any sort of official hearing in Sri Lanka, and perhaps reflecting the low public expectations regarding the CoI, initially these sessions seemed to attract more attention due to this novelty than the eye witnesses themselves. Subsequently however the vivid testimony has captured increasing interest. The first two witnesses were both fathers of two of the young boys killed. From independent points of view, each fathers told how they searched the streets after hearing a nearby explosion and being unable to contact their sons that night. While stopped at a security checkpoint one father was in a position to hear a prolonged burst and see the flashes of gunfire, but oddly the checkpoint personnel remained completely at ease. The second father was also stopped nearby and heard his son shouting out for help immediately before a thunder of gunshots. Both fathers feared for the worst and immediately went to the hospital, where they found their sons’ bodies. Reliving the final evening of their sons’ lives in considerable detail took a noticeable physical and mental toll on the two fathers with one weeping openly and the other more quiet but visibly struggling with the raw emotions.
A third witness withdrew at the last minute prior to testifying. This witness, who is one of two survivors from that night, rather offered a written statement which told that a hand grenade had been thrown at the seven boys as they talked at the beach front square. This witness was seriously injured by the grenade’s explosion and lost consciousness. He regained consciousness only at the hospital and found another injured friend lying next to him. The witness recounted asking what happened and his only surviving friend said that after the grenade attack members of the security Special Task Force (STF) quickly arrived and dragged them into the back of a truck where they were callously beaten. As further related by the second survivor, the STF then threw the boys out of the truck and deliberately fired into the group as they lay helplessly on the street.
While all the witnesses explicitly stated they received repeated threats against their families and their lives following the killings which coerced them into silence, the lawyers representing the STF at the Sessions sought to emphasis that no incriminating accusations were ever made during the initial police investigation or judicial hearings. Thus, despite the direct implication of the security forces operating with total control in Trincomalee, the STF argued the testimonies are complete fabrications and directly accused the witnesses of maliciously lying now that they can not effectively prosecuted for perjury.
Posted By Adam Nord (Sri Lanka)
Posted Mar 23rd, 2008