Sri Lanka: Killing of Political Prisoners in Kalutara Prison


Urgent Appeal Case: UA971223
ISSUES: Freedom of expression,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) expressed its concern over the killing of three prisoners and attacks on many others for more than an hour on 12 December 1997 in Kulutara Prison, which is located about 50 kilometres from the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo. The three who were killed and all other injured victims are Tamils. They were attacked by about 400 people with rocks, batons and swords. Some of the attackers allegedly came from outside the prison and hacked them to death. According to reports, there were also crowds outside the prison throwing stones and other objects into the prison throughout the attack.

This incident has brought back memories of the 1983 killings of 53 Tamil prisoners inside the prisons in Colombo. These prisoners were awaiting trials at the time. The incident is known to have been instigated by some politicians of the then ruling United National Party (UNP). These killings led to people’s distrust of the country’s legal institutions. The present situation is a replication of the past and is a denial of basic justice to the Tamil people.

It is alleged that the prison authorities were aware of the attack and failed to take action to prevent it. It is also said that the army personnel that were called to help also did not take any effective action to stop the violent attack on the Tamil prisoners.

Background Information Sri Lankan security forces are currently battling separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) guerrillas in the island’s North and East. Amnesty International (AI) reported last month that nearly all of the 600 Tamils who \"disappeared\" after being arrested by Sri Lankan troops in the past 18 months had been tortured to death.

Tamils Fasting unto Death Tamil prisoners have requested that they be relocated in other prisons as they fear for their lives. Several hundred Tamil prisoners are now in Kulutara Prison fasting unto death until they are moved to another prison. Several Tamil prisoners have refused to give evidence unless they are removed from the prison. Human rights organisations have called for the removal of the Sinhala prisoners who took part in the assault as well.

Institution of the Law Undermined The basic institution of the law is being undermined in this way. The security of all citizens is at stake whether they are Sinhalese or Tamils. If the rule of law is flouted in this way, the basic legal system will surely face serious collapse? To use the threat of attacks by the LTTE as an excuse for this sort of incident will only be self-defeating and self-destructive. This type of attack on legal institutions threatens the whole nation and all peoples.

IDENTITIES OF INJURED TAMIL POLITICAL PRISONERS: The Tamils political prisonsers were attacked by Sinhalese convicts while prison authorities looked on. Those injured after the Kalutara jail attack included the 20 persons named below. Krishnapillai Srimohan (Kokuvil, Jaffna);

Geevananthan Dhivakaran (Kiran, Batticaloa); Sellathurai Karunakaran (Kodikamam, Jaffna); Vettivel Thiruchelvam (Kokkadicholai, Batticaloa); Rasathurai Gopalakrishnan (Thirukovil, Amparai); Ratnam Thanapalasingam (Kayts, Jaffna); Pasupathipillai Senthiran (Uruthirapuram, Kilinochchi); Murugamoorthy Thilakeswaran (Kaluwanchikudi, Batticaloa); Nagamani Theivendran (Batticaloa Town); Nalliah Rajalingam (Palugamam, Batticaloa); Ilayathamby Sriskantharajah (Batticaloa town); Selvaratnam Kumar (Jaffna town); Panchacharam Senkodan (Jaffna town); Sivapirakasam Sorupan (Vavuniya); Ilayathamby Suthakaran (Thirukovil, Amparai); Alakaiyah Raveenthiran (Mulliyawalai, Mullaitivu); Veerappan Yogarasa (Jaffna town); K Sangarathas (Colombo); Selvaratnam Karunakaran (Kodikamam, Jaffna) and Atchuthapillai Balachandran (Neeraviyadi; Jaffna)

RECOMMENDED ACTION: To assist the people of Sri Lanka in this process, you are encouraged to write letters to the government of Sri Lanka to take urgent action.

These political prisoners do not deserve to be treated like criminals. The Sri Lankan government is responsible for their protection during custody, especially when an ethnic war is being fought.

1. Request that the Sri Lankan government take measures to restore order, to reinforce discipline and promote professionalism among the prison authorities and army personnel in order to protect the prisoners;

2. Request an international and impartial inquiry into what happened at the prison and for all of those responsible to be punished according to the law (Minister of Justice G. L. Peiris has been requested to make a full and impartial inquiry into this matter to which he has now agreed; thus, it is imperative that pressure be applied to ensure that this happens).


Her Excellency President Chandrika B. Kumaratunga, Presidential Residence, Temple Trees, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka, Fax: (94) 1-333-703

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA971223
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Freedom of expression,