Vavuniya High Court passes an interim stay order to stop proceedings in the Mannar Mass grave case


Since 2017 Mannar Magistrate Court has been ordering activities such as carbon data testing and forensic research by sending samples to laboratories overseas in order to gather various data and information regarding the skeletal remains and artifacts found in the Sathosa premises located in the heart of Mannar town. A team of local experts in this field and archeologists were involved in the excavation and research process. Attorneys-at-law appearing on behalf of the families of the disappeared in the mass grave case made complaints against Chief Judicial Medical Officer Dr. Saminda Rajapakshe claiming that JMO being the head of the team had misled the investigation activities. In response to these claims, the State Counsel from the Attorney General’s Department made a statement objecting the appearance of counsels on behalf of the victims and following the argument, Mannar Magistrate ordered on March 10, 2020 that attorneys appearing on behalf of the families of the disappeared are legally ineligible to appear in Courts on behalf of the victims. A review application was filed in the Vavuniya High Court against the above order of the Mannar Magistrate where it was argued that the said Magistrate’s order lacked legitimacy. After reviewing the written statement, the Vavuniya Judge stated the outline of the review had justifiable reasons and therefore, on March 17, 2020, the suspended the Mannar Magistrate’s order and granted am interim stay order to suspend Mannar Magistrate Court proceedings until the review was completed.

When the said revision application was once again taken into review on August 25, 2020 at the Vavuniya High Court, the Judge ordered to further extend the stay order till September 25, 2020 and that the order must be immediately notified to the Registrar of the Mannar Magistrate Court. The attorneys-at-law appearing on behalf of the victims informed the Court that the mass grave site located in the centre of the Mannar town is left without proper security and inspection following the previous stay order and therefore, would be detrimental in future investigations and excavation processes. They further the attorneys stated that garbage is being dumped in the site.

Thereafter, the attorney-at-law, Purathany Sivalingam representing the Office of the Missing Persons OMP) made a submission stating that if the mass grave site is continuously left neglected without security, there would be the risk of possible damage and sabotage to the remaining skeletal remains and artifacts thus losing its certification for evidence. Further she tabled the photographs depicting the current state of the mass grave site, which was seen neglected. Based on the submissions made by the attorneys-at-law, Vavuniya High Court Judge R. Kannan ordered the Mannar Magistrate that the same security provided during the excavation and investigation process of the Sathosa Mass Grave site should be made availa

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