COLOMBO, June 23 (AP) Former Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been charged in a report released Thursday with falsifying police records to thwart investigation into riots found in the area where he served as an officer. The investigation of the burial pit, when he was a bloody Marxist. 1989 uprising.
Reports from activist groups such as the International Truth and Justice Project, Sri Lankan Democracy Journalists and families of missing persons say that despite the exhumation of hundreds of remains in some 20 mass graves over the past three decades, no action has been taken to identify victims and Return his remains to his family.
Tens of thousands of remains may still be buried in undiscovered mass graves, the report said.
None of the numerous commissions of inquiry established by successive Sri Lankan governments has been mandated to investigate mass graves. Instead, efforts to uncover the truth have been hampered, the report said.
When mass graves were discovered and investigations began, judges and forensic experts were abruptly removed, family lawyers were denied access to the scene, no effort was made to locate living witnesses, autopsy data was not collected, and in rare cases, it was alleged, someone was Convicted, later pardoned.
“This is a story of lack of political will – an inadequate legal framework, a lack of coherent policy and insufficient resources. It is a story of unresolved tragedy for the families of the missing. Not to my relatives.”
Rajapaksa’s alleged role in the digging of mass graves is an example of political interference, the report said.
After mass graves were discovered in central Sri Lanka’s Matale region in 2013, Rajapaksa, then a defense official, ordered the destruction of all police records in the region’s police station more than five years old, the report said.
The mass graves are suspected to date back to the violent Marxist insurgency of 1989, when Rajapaksa was involved in counter-insurgency operations in the area as an army officer.
The report called for action against Rajapaksa and senior police officers suspected of obstructing the investigation.
Rajapaksa was elected president in 2019 but was forced to resign last year amid angry public protests over the worst economic crisis in the country’s history.
Since gaining independence from British rule 75 years ago, Sri Lanka has endured three major armed insurgencies, including a 25-year divisive civil war.
An office established in 2017 to track details of people reported missing in the clashes received 21,374 complaints, including from families of security forces.
The report recommends special laws and policies to manage mass graves and excavations, including their identification, preservation and surveys. It also recommends strengthening the country’s forensic capacity, creating an independent prosecution to ensure that post-excavation prosecutions are conducted in an impartial manner, and creating a skilled unit to investigate other potential mass graves. (Associated Press)
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