Karuna’s call for war crimes investigations should not allow him to airbrush out his own role in atrocities. His LTTE forces were implicated in some of Sri Lanka’s most horrific abuses, so the government’s long-stalled war crimes investigations might as well begin with him.
The New York-based rights watchdog said the Sri Lanka’s Deputy Minister of Resettlement Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan known as Karuna has called for war crimes investigations into the major Tamil party Tamil National Alliance, which acted as the proxy party for the Tamil Tiger terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) before the group’s fall in May 2009.
Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch said the government’s war crimes investigations should begin with Karuna since he was the LTTE’s second-in-command and the head of its Eastern Province forces until he broke away from the LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, in March 2004.
Following the break-away Karuna helped the Sri Lankan government to defeat the LTTE and joined the mainstream politics becoming a minister. He has been a member of parliament since 2008.
“Karuna’s call for war crimes investigations should not allow him to airbrush out his own role in atrocities,” said Adams.
“His LTTE forces were implicated in some of Sri Lanka’s most horrific abuses, so the government’s long-stalled war crimes investigations might as well begin with him,” he said.
According to HRW, LTTE forces under Karuna’s command were directly involved in some of the worst crimes.
The HRW said that In June 1990, 400 to 600 police officers who had surrendered to LTTE forces, many of whom may have been under Karuna’s control, were bound, gagged, and beaten. The LTTE then executed the Sinhalese and Muslim police officers among them.
Karuna has admitted that the LTTE committed these killings in an interview with the BBC, but claims he was not at the scene. Under the legal principle of command responsibility, though, Karuna could still be criminally liable for the massacre even if he was not physically present, the HRW said.
The HRW said Karuna’s forces played a prominent role to recruit and use children as soldiers by routinely visiting Tamil homes to tell parents to provide a child for “the movement”.
The LTTE harassed and threatened families that resisted, and boys and girls were abducted from their homes at night or while walking to school, the HR monitor noted.
The HRW accuses Karuna of continuing to operate with the complicity of the Sri Lankan government security forces after breaking away from the LTTE.
His forces continued to abduct children for use as soldiers in Sri Lanka’s eastern districts, taking boys from their homes, work places, temples, playgrounds, public roads, camps for the internally displaced, and even weddings, the watchdog says.
These abuses are documented in Human Rights Watch’s 2007 report, “Complicit in Crime: State Collusion in Abductions and Child Recruitment by the Karuna Group.”
“Karuna has enjoyed immunity for some of the worst atrocities committed during Sri Lanka’s long conflict,” Adams said adding that his “threat to initiate investigations against a political party is a cynical gesture aimed at silencing the opposition while denying his own responsibility for war crimes.”