After 15 long years the Mirusuvil massacre case HC/1092/2002 comes to a significant end on June 25, 2015 when the Colombo High Court found Army Sergeant Sunil Ratnayakawith guilty and sentenced him to death for killing 8 civilians in Mirusuvil, Jaffna in 2000.
When the case was taken up, the court sentenced Staff Sergeant Sunil Rathnayake to death as sufficient evidence had proven his guilt. However, four other soldiers in connection to the massacre were acquitted due insufficient evidence.
The incident occurred on December 19 2000, when nine civilians including a three year old child in the Jaffna district disappeared from their homes in Mirisuvil in the Thenmaradchy area. The nine men obtained permission from the Sri Lankan Army to visit their homes and see their properties as they were displaced to Vadamaradchy area. Later it was reported that they were missing. On December 24, 2000 one of the missing, Mr. Maheshwaran escaped from army custody with severe wounds and injuries all over his body as a result of torture and gave information and details of the remaining eight. On his evidence, soon after, a mass grave was discovered and corpses of the eight men were found during exhumation which took place on December 25, 2000.
This case was taken up at the Chavakachcheri Magistrate’s Court on the same day and subsequently 14 army personnel were taken into custody. Later, the case was transferred to the Anuradhapura Magistrate’s Court at the request of suspects to the Attorney General’s Department as they feared it would be a threat to their lives. Subsequently, it was taken up on July 22, 2002 and November 29, 2002 at the Anuradhapura Magistrate’s Court. Later the Chief Justice appointed a trial-at-bar at the High Court, Colombo and nominated three judges for trial at bar. They were Justice Sarath Ambepitiya, Justice S.I. Immam and Justice Kumar Ekaratne. The CHRD retained lawyers to hear the case at trial-at-bar. The trial-at-bar commenced on November 27, 2002 at the High Court Colombo. While five were indicted, the rest were released on bail. Attorneys-at-law Mr. D. W. Abeykoon PC, Mr. K.D.C. Kumarage, Mr. K.S. Ratnavel and Mr. M. Remedious appeared for the aggrieved parties. The next date for trial was fixed on January 29, 2003.
Trials were held at the High Court, Colombo from January to July 2003. Later a legal issue cropped up whether confession made to a military police is admissible in Court. The judges ordered the defense counsel to go to Supreme Court on this matter and take a decision. Thereafter the case was postponed till March 16, 2004. The Special Bench of the Supreme Court comprising five judges dismissed petitions of appeal challenging admissibility of confession. In the meantime two judges of the bench were removed and a new bench was constituted which comprised Justice Sarath Ambepitiya, Justice Upali Abeyratne and Justice Sisira de Approva. The new date for trial to commence was fixed for November 4, 2004.
When trials resumed on November 4, 2004, the case was ordered to be continued from the point it ended during the last date. Later Justice Sarath Ambepitiya ordered the trial to continue from the point it ended on November 22, 2004.
Regrettably, Justice Sarath Ambepitiya was killed by gunmen and the Chief Justice had to appoint a new judge and the case was fixed for December 16, 2004. But when the case was taken up on that day a new judge was not appointed and the case was postponed to January 19, 2005. Mr.K.S.Ratnavel and Mr.K.Shanmugalingam were retained by CHRD to appear on behalf of the aggrieved party.
Trial at bar went on in the High Court of Colombo but in the beginning of 2007 the case was stopped temporarily. In September 2008, the new date for the next hearing was informed and on November 11, 2008 the case was taken up before the three judges in the Colombo High Court.
The High Court panel visited the scene of the murder on April 28, 2011. Judges Deepali Wijesundara, W.U.M.P.B. Warawewa and Sunil Rajapaksa inspected the site and the STF and the Air Force provided security to the area during the inspection. The judges also inspected the Chavakachcheri court premises where an identification of the suspect took place.
This came about when the three member bench of Colombo High Court unanimously, decided personally to visit the site where eight civilians were murdered in Mirusuvil 11 years back. When the case was taken up on February 15, 2011 the three member bench led by Judge Ms. Deepali Wijesundara, decided to visit the crime scene with the consent of the petitioner and the defendant. Thereafter, on March 10, 2011 Deputy Solicitor General Mr. Sarath Jayamane stated that an officer must be appointed by the Colombo High Court in order to make contacts.
He further added the report on the Mirisuvil massacre has been submitted and out of the three places mentioned in the report two have been changed and therefore Court must order to appoint two competent officers from the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of justice as there might be land mines in these areas in order to continue the journey. He requested the bench that this must be announced at next hearing.
On 27th July 2011, the trial at bar at the Colombo High Court, the Asst. Examiner D.H.L. Jayamanna stated that it has been proved that the clothes found at the massacre site were that of the victims, according to the evidence produced by the Government Medical Examination Department. This was confirmed with the support of relatives the victims Kathiresh Gnanavimalan, and Gnanavimalan Ravichandran.
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