Five Police Officers Sentenced to Death for Killing Tamil Civilians in 1996

In a landmark ruling, the Anuradhapura High Court on Friday sentenced five police officers to death for their roles in the murder of eight Tamil civilians in the village of Bharathipuram, Kantale, in 1996. High Court Judge Manoj Thalgodapitiya delivered the verdict after a prolonged legal battle that spanned nearly three decades.

The convicted officers, who were stationed at the Bharathipuram police post at the time of the incident, included Constable Chandrathna Banadara, Constable Nimal Premasiri Konara, Inspector R.M. Ranaraja Bandara, Sub Inspector Y.L. Somaratne, and Constable Senarath Bandara Medawela. They were found guilty on charges related to unlawful assembly with the intent to commit murder.

The case was initially brought before the Trincomalee High Court but was transferred to Anuradhapura following the assassination of two suspects by the LTTE during a court appearance. The investigation revealed inconsistencies in the officers’ claims that they were retaliating to an attack on their police post, finding no evidence that such an attack had occurred.

Deputy Solicitor General Madhawa Tennakoon led the prosecution, which concluded with a request to acquit five other suspects citing insufficient evidence. In total, after various proceedings, only five of the original 13 accused were convicted, facing 37 charges.

The delivery of the verdict was notably delayed by logistical issues, including the late submission of a crucial report from the Government Analyst, which the court received only in 2022.

This sentencing marks a significant moment in addressing the long-standing allegations of human rights violations by security forces during periods of turmoil in Sri Lanka. The verdict is seen as a step towards justice for the victims and their families, who have waited 26 years for resolution.

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