Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sri Lankan minister confirms killing of top rebel leaders while in military custody?


A top Sri Lankan minister wittingly or otherwise has confirmed that some of the top Tamil Tiger leaders, including V. Balakumaran and Yogaratnam Yogi, who had surrendered to the government troops during the final days of the war in May 2009, have been killed while in protected military custody.

Minister of Rehabilitation and Prisons Reforms, Dew Gunasekera who undertook a visit to the north and met groups of war widows last week has told a Colombo-based newspaper on record that among the ‘widows’ whom he had met in Jaffna were wives of Balakumaran and Yogaratnam Yogi.

The Minister’s statement indirectly confirms that some of the top leaders of the Tamil Tiger rebels have been killed while in military custody by the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, which is already facing international war crime charges for allegedly executing top unarmed Tiger leaders when surrendering with white flags.

It is not immediately known whether Balakumaran and Yogi were killed in an execution-style murder or tortured to death.

Minister Gunasekera has also acknowledged that there had not been a detailed study on LTTE widows, though various NGOs and government officials from time to time had given different figures since the conclusion of the war in May last year.

He has said that his ministry had called for applications from people of the Northern Province before meeting them in three separate groups in Jaffna (July 10), Kilinochchi (11) and Vavuniya (12).

Minister Gunasekara has said that of the 8,000 who had responded to his ministry’s call, about 98 per cent were young women.

Yogaratnam Yogi was a member of the LTTE negotiating team which had series of talks with the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s government.

Balakumaran was formerly the leader of the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS) and joined the LTTE in the early 1990s before coming one of its ideologues.

On May 31, 2009, Lankafirst.com website quoting Government Information Department sources, reported that some top Tiger leaders who were in the military hand, were going through series of serious investigation by the security forces.

“Former eastern province political wing leader and subsequently in charge of the economic division Karikalan, former spokesman of the LTTE Yogaratnam Yogi , former EROS MP turned advisor to the LTTE V. Balakumar , a former spokesman of the LTTE Lawrence Tilagar, former Deputy political section leader Thangan , former head of the political section for Jaffna district Ilamparithi , former Trincomalee political wing leader Elilan, former head of the LTTE sports division Papa , former head of the administrative division of the LTTE Puvannan and deputy international head Gnanam are in custody,” it said.

A report by the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) also said December last year that Balakumar and his son teenaged Sooriyatheepan surrendered to the 53 army Division near Irattaivaykkal, along the Nanthikadal lagoon on May 16.

“Like Balakumar, many top LTTE leaders reportedly surrendered in the last three days of the war, between May 16 and 19 (2009)”.

The UTHR-J report mentioned the following top leaders as having surrendered: Karikalan (former eastern province political wing leader and subsequently in charge of the economic disivion), Yogaratnam Yogi (former spokesman of the LTTE), Lawrence Tilagar (a former spokesman of the LTTE, a one time head of LTTE office in Paris and later in charge of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation), Thangan (former Deputy political section leader), Ilamparithi (former head of the political section for Jaffna district), Elilan (former Trincomalee political wing leader), Papa (former head of the LTTE sports division), Puvannan (former head of the administrative division of the LTTE), Gnanam (deputy international head) and Tamilini head of the Women’s political wing.

According to the government reports, over 11,000 LTTE detainees are kept in special camps. None of the international rights groups, even the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have been granted access to many of these camps to date.

Internation media reports said last week that former Tamil Tiger rebels detained in Sri Lanka say they have been tortured and ill-treated in government camps with no basic facilities.

In letters and phone calls to the BBC, the ex-militants have said that they had been "tortured and beaten" in the detention centres.

"Military officers often call us dogs - even if we don't shave for a day we are beaten up badly," the BBC report said quoting one of the detainees’ letters as saying.

One letter written by a woman from the eastern town of Trincomalee said some young detainees had been "beaten black and blue".

"Some are hanged upside down. Some are made to lie down in the floor and beaten with belts and sticks. They don't take the injured to hospital," the woman has told the BBC.

© Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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