Mass grave in Matale – An unsolved question
The need for the preservation and proper inquiries into the remains of about 200 bodies found in the mass grave at Matale
( February 8, 2013, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka Guardian) The question of enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka has been a matter of concern for so many years now. The particular issue that the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to highlight in this statement is the finding of the remains of around 200 bodies at Matale which is under investigation by the Sri Lankan authorities. According to forensic experts who have so far done the preliminary work the remains of the bodies indicate injuries and therefore the site containing these remains is now regarded by the experts as a crime scene.
|A mass grave unearthed in Sri Lanka has stirred memories of the country’s bloody insurgencies and sparked calls for an official inquiry in the island nation that has drawn global scrutiny for its chequered human rights record.|
Now that it has come to the notice of the authorities of the discovery of these remains in what may be called a mass grave it is the duty of the state to conduct thorough inquiries into the circumstances under which these persons have suffered the injuries which are evidenced by their remains and to ensure a credible course of action leading to the discovery of all the details relating to the alleged crimes.
An inquiry must be able to ascertain the identity of the persons whose remains have been found; where they were arrested if these persons were disposed of after arrest, what is the nature of the injuries indicated on the remains and what the historical circumstances that led to their treatment that in turn led to these injuries. Such information should finally lead to the identity of those who caused these injuries which led to the death of these persons. Once such factual details are established it would be possible to decide the course of action needed to ensure justice.
However, there are serious concerns about the manner in which the remains are being preserved and also the manner in which the inquiries are being conducted. There are detailed processes and techniques essential for the scientific investigation of atrocity crimes. These include methods for the location, evaluation, excavation, recovery, and recording of mass graves and the analysis of human remains and other evidence in order to establish the identity of victims and the cause and manner of their deaths.
The AHRC suggests that the United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearances should, through their experts, study the situation of the conduct of inquiries relating to the remains of the 200 or more persons found in Matale, Sri Lanka and assist the Sri Lankan government to ensure that these inquiries will meet the international standards required for such inquiries. The Asian Legal Resource Centre also suggests that the international community should assist the Sri Lankan government with expertise, equipment and the necessary financial resources for the proper conduct of investigations as well as the preservation of these remains under ideal conditions which are required for such purposes.
The AHRC is concerned that if such international cooperation is not extended there is the possibility of the neglect of these remains which may lead to their destruction as a whole or in part and also that if the remains are not preserved under proper conditions their evidentiary value may progressively degenerate.
(A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission)