Sri Lanka: NfR condemns Assault on Navanthurai civilians by security forces

Press release/ 26 August 2011

NfR Sri Lanka, a network of Sri Lankan journalists and human rights defenders   living outside the country condemns the brutal assault on civilians by the officers of Navanthurai Army Detachment, in the Jaffna district. The assault took place on the night of 22nd August 2011. At least 18 of the arrested civilians have been tortured badly and had to be hospitalized. Photographic evidence published by reliable online media sources indicates  that many of them having plastered arms and legs.

According to reliable sources,

”At around 1.15 am on 23rd August, the army entered Navanthurai and detained between 100 – 120 young men from the village.  According to eye witnesses including two Catholic nuns, between 6-12 Army officers entered each house in the village and dragged out men who were sleeping with their families and children. The men were brutally and indiscriminately beaten with rifle butts and iron rods and dragged along the road towards the Army detachment located around 300 meters from the village. Women and children were also beaten in the attack.”

The civilians who were assaulted were denied medical treatment for up to 8 hours and only after judicial intervention they were allowed to obtain medical treatment.

Both these actions are grave violations of law.

It should be noted that that this brutal attack comes in the wake of international outcry against the Sri Lankan Security forces for alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes perpetrated against   Tamil civilians during the last phase of the war.

We are also deeply dismayed at the Sinhala and English language mainstream media that failed to report and investigate this story. It is only the Tamil language press and online media that have covered this act of brutality.

The arrest of civilians in the middle of the night took place after a mass protest against the Navanthurai Army Detachment, which according the people, were giving protection to the five intrudes in to the village when they were chased away by the villagers. People in the area believed those intruders were so called Grease devils (Grease Yakkas/Grease pootham) that attack women.

The phenomenon   of Grease devils has created uproar in the rural North and East where Muslims and Tamils predominantly live. Opposition politicians have blamed the Government for not preventing recurrent incidents of unknown intrudes trying to harass and harm women of Tamil and Muslim communities. Some have even blamed the government for creating this fear psychosis in order to further militarise the North and East.

The brutality of the Sri Lankan Armed forces once again raises the issue of Sinhala supremacist tendencies and anti Tamil sentiments within the Security Forces. In the past there have been violent protests against security forces in various parts of the country. However, in none of those instances the security forces deployed this kind of mass arrests and brutal assaults. It is clear that military establishment wanted to convey a very clear massage to the Tamils in Sri Lanka that they are a subjugated community.

NfR vehemently condemns the attacks on Tamil civilians by the Security forces.

NfR calls upon national and international human rights organisations to initiate an investigation in to this incident. It is very difficult to expect the Government of   Sri Lanka to launch an impartial investigation that would bring the culprits to book given the culture of impunity, which has become the norm in Sri Lanka.

Issued by

Steering Committee, NfR Sri Lanka


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