By Easwaran Rutnam
January 2, 2006 is a day which will continue to haunt Dr Kasippillai Manoharan. On that day, his son Ragihar was among the five youth killed under controversial circumstances in Trincomalee. Eight years on Dr Kasippillai Manoharan is still seeking justice over his son’s death and he has vowed to continue to fight till justice is served.
Dr Manoharan said he had taken a firm decision to challenge the authorities, no matter what, and was the first to give evidence in his son’s case in Sri Lanka. In October last year the Trincomalee High Court granted bail to 13 police Special Task Force (STF) personnel who had been arrested over the incident.
The incident referred to as the ‘Trincomalee massacre’, occurred when the five Tamil high school students playing by the beach were briefly detained and then shot dead.
The incident drew a huge outcry among human rights groups calling on the Government to bring to justice those killed in the incident. The inquiry into the case of the killing commenced on August 5, 2013, and 13 STF Police personnel had been arrested and remanded. The issue also made its way to the UN Human Rights Council and most recently the UN Human Rights Committee. Dr Manoharan has been part of an Amnesty International led campaign in Geneva seeking justice for the five murdered students.
“I have chosen to work with Amnesty International because they came forward to help me in my son’s case and I trust them. I have received many letters of support from AI members around the world wishing me luck in getting justice for my son,” Dr Manoharan toldThe Sunday Leader.
A Presidential Commission of Inquiry was established in November 2006 to investigate this and 15 other “serious violations of human rights,” but its final report, submitted to the President in 2009, was never made public. Dr Manoharan wants that report out. He said that if the authorities have nothing to hide then there is no reason why the report should be kept under the cover.
“In the current situation citizens residing in Sri Lanka cannot do anything about it even if they want to, because of the fear they face. I would very much appreciate that these citizens come forward to support the Human Rights Committee’s recommendations against the violations. Citizens should demand the public release of the report of the Presidential Commission of 2006. Why haven’t the authorities released this?” he asked. The UN Human Rights Committee had recently said it was concerned at the continued lack of effective investigations and prosecutions of perpetrators of human rights violations, including in the 2006 killings related to Trincomalee. The Committee had recommended that the Sri Lankan Government consider allowing witness testimony by video-link from secure and secret locations in order to facilitate the investigations with due regard to the needs of witness protection.
Amnesty International said that in order to secure real accountability for the “Trinco 5” killings it expects that, where sufficient evidence exists, any persons suspected of responsibility for the killings, will be among those put on trial.
“Indicators of Sri Lanka’s broader willingness and ability to seek and ensure accountability and justice for violations of human rights should include: independent and effective investigations into cases like the Trinco 5, and initiation of legal proceedings against those suspected of being responsible, including anyone with command responsibility, who knew or should have known about them and did not take measures to prevent, stop or punish them.
All criminal proceedings must meet international standards of fairness. The authorities must also provide reparations to victims (including surviving family members) in accordance with international standards,” Amnesty International told The Sunday Leader.
Amnesty had also sent a letter to the Attorney General’s (AG) office in May asking for clarification in relation to the killing but has not received any replies and nor have victims’ families. The human rights group is also running an online campaign to gather support for Dr Manoharan’s push for justice.
“The Government claimed that my son and his friends were killed in a grenade attack. But three of the boys had head wounds – all of them shot through the back of the head. I have photographs, and the doctor’s report confirms this. The entry hole was small, and the exit wound was big. That shows they shot Ragihar at very close range,” Dr Manoharan said.
Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, during one of his statements made at the UN in Geneva, had said that the Government is investigating the incident and it needs time and space. The Minister had said that subsequent to the recommendations of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), the Attorney-General reviewed the cases relating to the five students from Trincomalee and of the Action Contre La Faime (ACF) workers who were also killed in Muttur that year.