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FORGOTTEN DEATH SQUAD- KILLINGS IN SRI LANKA

PRINS GUNASEKARA Barrister -Middle Temple (UK); Advocate, Attorney at Law, Sri Lanka
Author : Buddhist Ecclesiastical Law - A Short History
Parliamentary Elections Law -Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka in Crisis : A Lost Generation

15 years after the state -sponsored killing of the one and only Catholic human rights lawyer in Northern Ireland, [Pat Funicane, February 1989] the one policeman accused of the murder pleaded guilty to the charge . He was convicted in the Belfast Crown Court and sentenced to 22 years imprisonment.

15 years after the state death -squad killings of over 20 human rights lawyers in the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, none- repeat, NOT ONE- has so far pleaded gulity to a charge of murder, nor even non-summary criminal proceedings have commenced in the Sri Lankan courts, against any suspects in respect of these murders.

What a sharp and dismal contrast in the way human rights are respected and the rule of law observed in the two countries!

To assist in the proper comprehension of the enormity of the crime committed by state death squads in Sri Lanka, may I project these Sri Lankan figures to the United Kingdom? Given the geographical area [ roughly 4 times as big as Sri Lanka] and the size of its population [3 times as large] the equivalent UK figure, at the Sri Lankan rate of killings , would be a staggering, mind-boggling 20 x 4 x 3 = 240 human rights lawyers killed by state gunmen! Please do not be shocked: that is Sri Lanka- democratic, socialist and republican by fame; a respected and honourable member of the British Commonwealth. By the Grace of God, mercifully [barring Rosemary Nelson killing in 1999] UK had only 1 human rights lawyer killed in 25 years of the IRA conflict.

30 years after the extra judicial executions of political opponents in Chile, ex-dictator General Augusto Pinochet is still being pursued for the crimes during his 18 year misrule: Supreme Court in Santiago stripped his immunity from prosecution the other

day. The police and the Supreme Court in Colombo, Sri Lanka are otherwise busy- pursuing petty sex offenders in motor vehicles [ such as when the police caught His Lordship the Chief Justice, allegedly flagrante delicto, with a lady lawyer in his car.]

Ex President Slobodan Milosovic of Yougoslavia is before the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague for his allged crimes against humanity.

The international community, mindful of their failure to prevent the inhuman atrocities in Rwanda and Ethiopia 10 years ago, are deliberating, at UN Security Council level, how to stop the current genocidal killings in Sudan.

Unending violence in Afghanistan and Iraq, kidnappings and decapitating hostages for televised transmission worldwide, are appallingly dismal daily distractions.

In that context, 65,000 deaths/disappearances and state death squad- killing of 20 human rights lawyers in Sri Lanka in the past 15 years appear to be of little concern to, and remain forgotten by, the rest of the world. The country has gone through the terror and tyrrany, violence and villainy of three Executive Presidential administrations since 1977. Corruption and the underworld are steadily overwhelming the rule of law. A culture of violence corrodes the political and social fabric: suicide bombers direct the political road map. Add another to this casualty list: the independence of the judiciary- the last bastion against the invasion of human rights. Perpitrators of crime live and act with impunity, high and powerful in political office and the security establishment.

In exile as a political refugee, I live in the forlorn hope of seeing a catalytic chamge to this tragic pattern and trend of events in my country. The PRRAs, BLACK CATS, YELLOW CATS, GREEN TIGERS, DJVs [ death squads assembled in the "killing fields" of Sri Lanka, two decades ago ] have yet to be demobilised. I deem it an opportune moment - the Funicane murder conviction- to address this letter to highlight the country's plight and call for accountability, to bring the forgotten crminals in Sri Lanka to justice.

That, in my view, is a simple, hopeful way to restore the rule of law and respect for human rights in Sri Lanka.

Prins Gunasekara

[In exile]

Copies to:

Bar Council UK

Lord Avebury, House of Lords

Law Society UK

David Gladstone ex UK HC in Colombo

Amnesty International

Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Human Rights Watch

SL High Commission, UK

Bar Assn of Sri Lanka

Friends of Sri Lanka Assn



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