The discovery of two pieces of human bones, bound by a cable – Move to send mass grave specimens for carbon dating in US hit by a hitch

The discovery of two pieces of human bones, bound by a cable, has caused serious concern to the experts engaged in excavating the Mannar mass grave; they wonder whether some of the people buried there had been tortured. The two pieces of bone were recovered on Friday (7).

By Dinasena Rathugamage

Plans to send the skeletal remains recovered from the Mannar mass grave for radiocarbon dating at the Beta Analytic lab in Florida now have been hit by a financial glitch.

The team of forensic experts who had exhumed the skeletal remains sought the permission of the court to send them to the US to decide their dates and the court duly granted permission. However, now a financial problem had sprung up and there would be no sending of the samples of skeletal remains to Florida lab until a further decision is taken, the experts told The Island.

According to forensic and archaeological experts the cost of referring the samples to the US lab would be very high but their dating results were recognised worldwide unlike the Indian dating labs which provide results for a lower fee.

The cost of the dating process had been already estimated yet there was no finalisation as to which government institution, department or ministry would cover the cost, according to sources.

There had been a previous decision to send only a sample of skeletons for the dating and then to assign the dates coming from the lab results to all skeletons owing to the exorbitant cost as the exhumation progressed the experts were divided on their opinion on the grounds that the bodies could have been dumped in the grave on more than one occasion.

Wednesday passed the 117 day of excavation and skeletal remains of 266 persons had been dug up from the grave. Out of them 251 had been handed over to the Mannar Court for further investigations. Those skeletal remains are stored under the supervision of Mannar JMO Shaminda Rajapakshe on the orders of Mannar District Judge M Swarnaraj.

The human skeletal remains were first found by some construction workers while excavating the site behind the CWE Building in Mannar as part of a development project on May 25. On the same day a complaint was lodged with the Mannar Police of the findings. Investigations began under the supervision of former Mannar Magistrate Alex Raja. Excavations commenced, on May 28, after it was determined by a team of scientists that the area contained undisturbed skeletons.

The police produced parts of skeletal remains before the Mannar District Judge and the judge ordered the police to excavate the site under the supervision of experts.

As the excavation work continued and more and more skeletal remains were recovered, it was concluded that the place was a mass grave.

Judge J. T. Prabhakaran, who succeeded Judge Alex Raja, as District Judge Mannar gave some important rulings with regard to the mass grave. The excavations of the site are now being carried out under the supervision of incumbent Mannar Magistrate Swarnaraj.

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