SC affirms conviction and death sentence imposed on Staff Sergeant | Daily News


 

Mirusuvil mass murder

SC affirms conviction and death sentence imposed on Staff Sergeant

A Supreme Court five-judge-bench had unanimously affirmed the conviction and death sentence imposed on former Army Staff Sergeant for the murder of eight civilians in Mirusuvil, Jaffna in 2000.

The Five-judge-bench comprising Justice Buvaneka Aluvihare, former Chief Justice Nalin Perera, Justice Sisira de Abrew, Justice Priyantha Jayawardena and Justice Murdu Fernando were of the view that the Trial-at-Bar was justified in treating witness Maheswaran as a credible witness and acting on his testimony, the Supreme Court concluded that the judges of the Trial-at-Bar were correct in coming to the conclusion that the accused-Appellant was guilty on counts 11 to 19 on the Indictment.

The accused-Appellant R.M.Sunil Ratnayake, a staff sergeant attached to Sri Lanka Army was sentenced to death by the Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar bench on June 25, 2015 after been found guilty for murdering eight Tamil civilians at Mirusuvil in Jaffna on December 19, 2000.

On November 27, 2002, the Attorney General indicted five accused on 19 charges in the murder of Gnanapalan Raviveeran, Sellamuttu Theivakulasingham, Vilvarajah Pratheepan, Sinniah Vilvarajah, Nadesu Jeyachandran, Kathiran Gnanachandran, Gnanachandran Santhan and Vilvarajah Prasath in Mirusuvil of the Jaffna peninsula before a High Court at Trial-at-Bar in Colombo.

The Trial-at-Bar bench found former Staff Sergeant R.M. Sunil Ratnayake guilty for multiple counts including the murder.

Four other accused Second Lieutenant R.W.Senaka Munasinghe, T.M. Jayaratne, S.A. Pushpa Saman Kumara and Gamini Munasinghe were not found guilty for the charges and thereby they were acquitted and released from the case.

Delivering the judgment Justice Buvaneka Aluvihare made the following observation regarding the incident.

Considering the above the irresistible inference that could be drawn is that it was the accused-appellant and the group of men who had inflicted the fatal injuries to the deceased and from thenature of the injuries it can be concluded that the injuries were inflicted with the intention of causing their deaths. Thus, I conclude that the prosecution has established the counts of murder (11 to 18) and the count of causing hurt to Maheshwaran, count no. 19 of the indictment.

Mirusavil, a northern Sri Lankan village in the Jaffna peninsula had faced the ferocity of the civil war that had engulfed the country, at the dawn of the millennium.

In the early part of the year 2000, the fighting has intensified and in April 2000, the combatants of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had overrun one of the key and strategic Army bases at Elephant Pass.

With this debacle, the Army had had to reposition their defence lines, and a forward defence line was established at Ellathumadduwal. Straddled by the areas of Ellathumadduwal and Kodikamam, stray shells fell on Mirusavil, which forced the villagers of Mirusavil to abandon the village and to seek refuge at locations some distance away from their village.

They, however, kept a tab on their abandoned houses and had developed the habit of visiting their houses once in a while to clean up the places and to collect whatever produce that they could make use of. The visits, however, were done during the day time and they ensured that they left before dusk.

On December 18, 2000 a military unit of the Gajaba Regiment was airlifted and deployed in the general area of Mirusavil. This military unit consisted of a reconnaissance unit as well. On the day following, i.e. on December 19,2000, eight villagers cycled to Mirusavil from the places where they had taken temporary residence, in order to visit their respective houses. One of them happened to be a toddler of 5 years who accompanied his father on his cycle.

Having attended to the chores and having collected whatever produce they could lay their hands on, by 4.00 in the afternoon, they were getting ready to cycle back to their temporary residences. The toddler Prasad, having noticed a Guava tree, pestered his father Wilvarasa to get him some fruits. Probably not having the heart to disappoint the child, they had walked towards the vicinity of the Guava tree lugging along the bicycles on which they had stacked whatever they had collected from their compounds. They, however, could not proceed the full distance, because they were stopped by some soldiers. It would, at this point, be pertinent to identify the villagers who visited their houses on this day. The group comprised of Raviwarman, Thaivakulasingham, Wilvarasa, and his two sons; the toddler Prasad, who was 5 and his 13-year-old other son Pradeepan Jayachandran, Gnanachandran and his 15-year-old son Shanthan and finally Maheshwaran who happened to be the brother-in-law of Gnanachandran and the solitary survivor of this ordeal who lived to relate the tale.

By year 2000, Ponnadurai Maheshwaran was a youth of 21 years. Maheswaran in his testimony had said that they abandoned their house as their houses were hit by artillery and as such had to move to the village of Karaweddi. Maheswaran had testified to the effect that on the day in question, he along with the group referred to earlier, came to Mirusavil and engaged in cleaning their houses and others who accompanied him also had cleaned their respective houses.

On the orders of the Magistrate the area had been searched and eight bodies were unearthed. It was established that those bodies were of the persons who accompanied Maheshwaran on December 19 to visit Mirusavil.

Steps thereafter had been taken to have identification parades held where a number of military personnel who were suspected of committing the crime, were produced (13 in all) as suspects and five of them had been identified by Maheshwaran

Anil Silva PC with Sahan Kulatunga, G. Gunaratne, Dhanaraja Samarakoon and Asela Serasinghe appeared for the Accused- Appellant. Deputy Solicitor General Thusith Mudalige with State Counsel Viraj Weerasooriya appeared for the Attorney General.


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