The course of justice in Sri Lanka

July 25, 2009

The Sri Lankan Supreme Court yesterday acquitted five soldiers for the murder of 10 Muslim youths in Udathalawinna on December 5, 2001, during a general election.  The five had been security guards of Anuruddha Ratwatte, the then deputy minister of defence.  Ratwatte and his two sons had earlier been charged for the murders as well but were acquitted in 2006.  Ten young men are dead and no one, to my knowledge, has been convicted for their murder.  Is this how Sri Lanka punishes the guilty?

I couldn’t help thinking of this case when I heard that a verdict is expected on August 31 in the trial of J.S. Tissainayagam, a Sri Lankan journalist.  Tissainayagam is being tried for allegedly violating the country’s emergency regulations and Prevention of Terrorism Act.  The only evidence against him are two articles he wrote in 2006 in a monthly magazine criticizing the government’s conduct of the war against the Tamil Tigers and a confession that his lawyer says was obtained under duress.  Amnesty International has adopted him as a prisoner of conscience and calls for his immediate, unconditional release and for all charges against him to be dropped.  Will we see an acquittal for him on August 31?  Or do acquittals only apply for the powerful and those connected to them?