Since the entrance of civil society, the lawyers for the SLA and the police Special Task Force (STF) have become more restrained in their open hostility towards witnesses whose testimony incriminates the state security forces, but apparently threatening tactics persist. It has been noticed that these state counsels routinely begin with questioning that essentially demonstrate to the witnesses that everything about them is well know. Such as by asking confirmation of the witnesses’ occupation, home address, and the names and locations of family members and close relatives. On one occasion, counsel also employed elaborate theatrics. In front of the witness on the stand, a uniformed military intelligence officer delivered a video cassette sealed in plastic bag to the counsel’s table. Counsel then waved the video cassette at the witness and generally stated that there was surveillance footage relevant to present investigation; therefore the witness should consider his testimony carefully as he might be recorded in the video.
The lawyers present from civil society challenged this as an implicit threat, but it also highlights the danger witnesses and their families face in their daily lives at home when beyond the attention of the CoI. Not surprisingly a number of the witnesses have informed the CoI they have been extorted not to testify. Unfortunately the CoI lacks any real capacity to provide protection besides asking the media not to publish information regarding the witnesses’ identities. Vulnerable witnesses are thereby forced into a dreadful balance of sacrificing either justice or possibly their lives to secure the other.
Posted By Adam Nord (Sri Lanka)
Posted May 4th, 2008