The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said in a statement released this week former LTTE commander turned politician Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, known as Karuna Amman should have been criminally investigated long ago for war crimes.
Referring to an investigation launched by the Sri Lanka police into the one-time Deputy Minister in the former Rajapaksa Government after he publicly boasted about killing several thousand Sri Lankan soldiers during the country’s civil war, the New York-based Human Rights organisation said Sri Lankan authorities should investigate and appropriately prosecute Karuna for war crimes and other grave human rights abuses committed during the armed conflict with the LTTE.
HRW South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly noted that during the 26-year armed conflict, the LTTE was responsible for countless grave abuses, including unlawful killings and attacks on civilians.Forces under Karuna’s command were implicated in the summary execution of several hundred police officers in June 1990, after they had surrendered to the LTTE. The following month his forces executed about 75 Muslim travellers. And in August that year, his forces were allegedly responsible for killing more than 200 civilians in Batticaloa district.
Even after Karuna split from the LTTE to lead a pro-Government armed group in 2004, his alleged crimes were never investigated, HRW said in the statement. Instead his forces committed more abuses, apparently this time on the Government’s behalf. The United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and others reported that Karuna’s group, known as the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), was responsible for enforced disappearances, torture, and child recruitment.
Karuna has never been held accountable for his alleged crimes. In 2007 he was arrested in the United Kingdom for traveling on a false document. He testified that his fake diplomatic passport was provided by the then-Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, now Sri Lanka’s President. Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is currently the Prime Minister but was then President, appointed Karuna a Government Minister in 2009.
“Sri Lankan authorities should investigate and appropriately prosecute Karuna for war crimes and other grave human rights abuses,” HRW said.
However, the human right organisation expressed concern that it is more likely that Karuna will once again escape justice.