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Report 10


 THE MASKADE CHAIN -Tamil Detainees of the Sri Lanka Forces

2.1 Introduction

2.2 Cases

2.3 Prisoners & International Organisations


2.1 Introduction

 Many of our recent reports have averred to detainees being taken by the Sri Lankan Forces - from their homes, removed from public transport while fleeing the war zone, often from refugee camps, while fleeing to India by sea and when sheltering from the war in the South. In Report No.5 we referred to a press report in the Virakesari where a convoy of buses going to Colombo from Batticaloa escorted by the forces was stopped at the army camp in Valaichenai. Then home guards under army supervision removed about 30 passengers. The incident took place in late August 1990. We also referred (Reports 7 & 9) to 16 persons removed from the refugee camp in Pesalai, Mannar Island, by the army in November 1990. Special Report No. 3 was written at the time the STF was making mass arrests from refugee camps, a number of whom finished up as headless bodies on the high seas. A number of Tamils in the South continued to be arrested in the South during the course of the current conflict and nothing more has been heard of several of them. Kugamorthy was prominent among them. Representations made among very high circles, including the President's office, bore no fruit.

 Some have lived to tell the tale. We now complement accounts given by former detainees in Special Report No.3  and Reports 7, 8 and 9 and also shed some light on the specific instances mentioned above. The story still remains far from complete. These experiences also tell us about the perverted notion of legality that has become current in the wake of the PTA and the new emergency regulations. Even when it is evident that the prisoner can have no information of the slightest military value, torture is proceeded with until the prisoner confesses to something, such as giving food parcels to the LTTE, to justify his detention. Those who survived this ordeal have been kept for between one and two years before being released without charges. These considerations are relevant to the question of sending back Tamil refuguees from India and Europe.

 `Maskade' (Butcher's shop) is a term current among detainees of the forces descriptive of the torture chamber. Its Tamil equivalent,`Iraichikkadai', is used by the LTTE's detainees. They remain curious symbols of national unity in a supposedly separatist war. [Top]

The general pattern

 As mentioned in earlier repots, between June and October 199O, the Forces made mass arrests in many parts of the East, and the best information we have is that most of them were executed within a few days. The pattern that took shape goes something like this. In the East, the detainees not killed were generally tortured at the local forces' camp for one or two weeks. In the Mannar District, the detainees were usually sent to Thallady Camp if they survived the first day or two. At Thallady, torture followed a fairly uniform pattern (See also Ch. 4, Report 9) and lasted from one week to three.

 Those who survived followed the initiation of the first two to six weeks in the local centres were then sent to Magazine Prison in Colombo. Survivors who were badly mauled and were refused admission by Magazine Prison were sent to the Kadawatte STF camp until sufficiently presentable. In some cases they had a further period of interrogation at the 4th floor CID building in Colombo before being sent to Magazine. Magazine Prison has a routine where prisoners on admission are beaten by guards on the first day - a kind of rag, but not very serious compared to what they had been through. It is called Varavetpadi (Welcoming beating) in prisoners' parlance. Thereafter the prisoners were left in peace and even found the guards friendly and helpful. Those ill at the time of admission escaped Varavetpadi. One prisoner who was earlier at the Military Police camp in Trincomalee said that there was no infliction of physical pain there.

 Some prisoners finished the latter stage of their detention at Magazine Prison and others at the detention camp in Kalutura.

 Following their release, nearly all prisoners had two or more of the following symptoms: Recurring loss of memory (LM) Recurring blackouts (BO), Nightmares (NM), Gastrits (G), Body pains (BP), Hypertension (HT) Abdominal pains (AP), Tremors of hands (TR), Skin infections like scabies in nearly all cases (SK), Sleeplessness (SL), Loss of appetite (LA), and Frequent ejaculations in the nights (FE). The last, sometimes symptomatic of sexual torture, is something about which prisoners are understandably reticent.

 An observation made by some of the prisoners held at Thallady, is that some prisoners with known LTTE links were released on the intervention of certain leading local figures. Those tortured most often had nothing to confess. Some undercurrents involving intermediaries who smuggle fuel bought from the forces to the North have been touched in  Report 9 .

 Nearly all those who were questioned have gone back to their homes. To prevent identification, names and certain other details have been suppressed. [Top]

2.2 Cases

The South

 1....(20s), Amparai District. Arrested Bandarawela April 1991. Was staying with uncle to study for A.Levels. First week in local police station. Frequently assaulted with s-lon (plastic) pipes on head and body and ears. Kept in a dark room. On first night was masturbated repeatedly by six policemen until he lost consciousness. Then transferred to Pallekele Detention Camp and Magazine Prison (MP) Released September 1992.
Symptoms: LM,BP,BO,SL,LA,and FE. Very worried about capacity to lead a normal married life.

 2....(20s), Kalviankadu, Jaffna, unemployed. Living in Colombo. Was picked up by the TELO in July 1991. Was held at the CID branch Longden Place, Colombo -7 (near SLBC) for 15 days. Assaulted with hands and chains.
Symptoms: Pain in Chest & legs, SL & NM.

Trincomalee District

 3....(20s), Mutur. Taken from the Mutur refugee camp in November 1990 with 10 others by the police. He had already spent 4 months in the refugee camp since the outbreak of war. Tortured daily for 13 days. Assaulted with hands and batons. Forearm  bones fractured. Witnessed fellow prisoners taken away, who were then said to be missing. Then taken to Trincomalee prison and held under custody of Military Police, who were helpful in getting relatives to see prisoners. Taken to Magazine Prison after 1 month. Treated well by prison guards after first day's Varavetpadi'. Released after 22 months.
Symptoms: LM - Frightening since prisoner was a good student. SL, NM, LA. Was treated for fracture at OPD, Colombo only after admission to Magazine Prison.

Batticaloa District

 4....(20s), Trincomalee. Was in Batticaloa when war broke out in June 1990. Was travelling to Colombo in a bus on 21st August 199O, as part of an army escorted convoy of buses and other vehicles. The convoy was stopped at Ottaimavadi and 29 males and 3 females were picked off buses by home guards under the supervision of the army at Valaichenai. Prisoners were at first assaulted with batons by home guards. (This was done nine days after the massacre of Muslims at Eravar by the LTTE). At the Valaichenai army camp they were placed in sitting positions with hands and feet tied and were assaulted with hands and wire. Three days later, prisoners were taken to the army camp at Punani and were kept in six cells, each 8ft by 4ft, 6 or 7 persons to a cell. There they were tortured almost without break for 14 days. Each time the shift changed, torture commenced with new zeal. At Punani, the prisoner witnessed about 6 others being beaten to death and burnt with tyres soaked in diesel.

 The prisoners were visited at Punani by the ICRC. But those to be killed were not shown. During these sessions, the prisoner was deprived of his Seiko watch and Rs 3000 in cash. He was then taken to the 4th floor CID building. He was personally not tortured. But witnessed 3 smaller boys being tortured. Was taken to Magazine Prison after 6 weeks, where he was held until release in early 1992.
Symtoms: Depression, General weakness, Difficulty in reading, SL, HT, Severe NM

 The incident of the errests above was reported in the `Virakesari' and was raised with the late minister of defence by Tamil MPs, but to no avail.

 5....(20s), Batticaloa. Picked up by the SL army at Mannampitiya in July 1991 while travelling to Colombo. Hands tied. Placed on the floor face up and was assaulted all over the body. Then turned face down and beaten with S-lon pipes filled with cement. Then subject to phalanga - beating on soles of feet. This went on for 2 weeks, 2 to 3 hours daily. Released after two weeks in custody.
Symptoms: General body pain, particularly in soles, AP, Burning pain in stomach. Presently unemployed in Colombo.

Amparai District

 6....(20s) Arrested from his home by the STF in a round up in the Thirukovil-Akkaraipattu area with about 25 others in September 1990,(This was the time Special Report No.3 dealing with violations in the same area was being compiled. Several incidents of this kind were recorded). Tortured for 9 days, mainly by beating with hands (See Ch. 3 of Special Report No.3). Witnessed killing of fellow prisoners under torture. Spent 1 year in Magazine Prison. (Was spared from Varavetpadi because of chicken pox). Then 1 year at the Kalutura detention centre before release.
Symptoms: LA,FE,BO,TR-usually associated with sexual torture, SK.

 7....(20s). Arrested by the STF in the Amparai District in December 1991 Held at the Kondavedduvan STF camp for 2 months. Assaulted with batons and gun butts, sometimes hung by feet. Released. [Top]
Symptoms: BP,SL,NM.

Mannar District

 8....(20s), Mainland. Arrested in November 1990 from the Pesalai refugee camp with 16 others. Assaulted with gun butts on knees and back while being taken in the bus. Helmet was placed on head and then banged upon with gun butts. Of the 16 taken 10 prisoners said to have been killed (See   Report 9  ).Witnessed one prisoner tortured and killed in his presence. Kept in Thallady for 8 months. Tortured while statement was being taken. Hung upside down, beating and phalanga. Suffocated with plastic bag placed over head and held around neck. Penis squeezed. Hands tied, pole passed through loop formed by hands and body and raised. Pricked under nails with needles and burnt with cigarette butts. Torture went on for 3 weeks, but much reduced after first week. Sent to Magazine Prison and released in July 1992.
Symptoms: BP, particularly shoulder & soles, SL, LA, tearing from eyes.

 9....(40s), Fisherman from Jaffna, traditionally fishing off Talai Mannar, Took refuge in the Pesalai Refugee Camp during the military operation to take Mannar Island. Taken by the army from refugee camp in November 1990. Assaulted in refugee camp. Taken to Thallady and held for 45 days. Hung by feet, beating & phalanga. Taken to Magazine Prison in Colombo. Transferred to the Kalutara Centre in June 1991. Released July 1992.
Symptoms: Poor vision, BP, Particularly in feet, SL, Depression.

 1O....(30s) Mannar. Taken from Pesalai Refugee Camp with two above in Novemebr 1990.  5 months in Thalladi. Assaulted with baton on chest & body. Burnt with cigarette butts Pricked under nails with needles. Suffocated by plastic bag containing petrol fumes enwrapping head. Hung by toes. Hung and suddenly released to land head first. Then 4 months in Magazine & 8 months in Kalutura prior to release.
Symptoms: TR,LA, SL, BO & Tearing from eyes.

 11....(20s), Chunnakam, Jaffna District. Arrested by the navy at sea off Mannar while going to India in January 1991. Assaulted with hands by navy personnel. Then sent to the `maskade' at Thallady army camp. Hung upside down and assaulted with baton on chest and body for 3 days with no food. Sent to Mannar prison to share a small cell with 7 others. Beaten, but not seriously. Sent to Magazine Prison in June 1991. Transferred to the Kalutura centre in November 1991. Released July 1992.
Symptoms: TR,SK, Tiredness and Hyperventilation (Perumoochchu)

 12....(30s), Mannar, Technical person of supervisory rank by profession. Arrested by the army in March 1991 and taken to Thallady camp. Electrical torture used on hands, ear lobes and nipples. Assaulted with bare hands & baton. On one occasion Major Salman, head of the unit, took a personal hand by punching him on the chest. After 6 months at Thallady, sent to STF camp in Kadawatte for 3 months. No torture there. Then Magazine & Kalutura prior to release.
Symptoms: SK,HT,Vision defective and arthritis on foot. (The last two may be natural tendencies exacerbated by detention)

 13....(40s),Adampan Mannar District, Employee of UNHCR. Arrested in presence of UNHCR personnel. But he is unaware of action taken on his behalf by the UNHCR, although something was presumably done. Was tortured for 7 days. Was hung by his feet and beaten with a gun butt on thighs, sole and head. Suffocated by inserting head in shopping bag containing some petrol and tying around neck. Repeated on another occasion with chili powder instead of petrol. Suspended from legs, forepart of body lowered into a barrel of water and pulled out as prisoner started to asphyxiate. Hands tied behind. Pole inserted through hands, along body. Then suspended horizontally and beaten as pole was rotated.On another occasion soldiers stood on abdomen. Once the penis was placed on a table and was hammered with a baton. Kept in Thallady for 8 months. When taken to Colombo, Magazine Prison refused to accept him because of his condition. Then kept by STF, Kadawatte, for 2 1/2 months, Magazine for 6 days and then Kalutura until release.
Symptoms: SL,NM,LA,BP, Tiredness, Numbness, Giddiness.

 14....(20s), Talaimannar, Fisherman. Arrested Pesalai Refugee Camp (UNHCR) May 1991 with 5 others. Hands were tied at the refugee camp itself. Eyes blindfolded in the Pesalai army and taken to Thallady the next day & kept there for 4 months.Assaulted with baton on back and shoulder. Then Magazine 5 months and Kalutura until released in July 1992.
Symptoms: SL,NM,SK,FE,BP, Numbness.

15....(30s), Nilaveli. Trinco District. Arrested June 1991 Pesalai by SLA while preparing to leave for India. 1 day in Pesalai. Hung by big toes. Petrol poured into nostrils, head inserted in polythene bag and tied around neck. Assaulted with batons. Lost one tooth. Taken to Thallady and tortured for 7 days. Everyday hung by feet and given the polythene bag treatment. Out of agony prisoner falsely admitted giving 15 packets of rice parcels to the LTTE. Immediately the torture was stopped and a statement recorded. Then sent to Magazine Prison for a year prior to release.
Symptoms: SK, Back ache, Head ache, Chest pain, Poor vision at night.

 16....(20s), Ramanathapuram, Fisherman, Indian national. Arrested Talaimannar sea June 1991 by navy. Tortured at Talaimannar navy camp, taken to Karainagar navy camp and back to Talaimannar. Transferred to Thallady where the worst torture was endured. Beaten daily, pricked with pin under nails and given shopping bag treatment. Then Magazine, Kalutura and released July 1992.
Symptoms: Bad skin infestation, Multiple infected wounds, Diarrhoea with blood and mucous, Deformity of left wrist, Chest pain and Pain in both forelegs.

Note: Though originally from the same community and fishing in the straits of Paulk, the use of modern methods has caused a rift between fishermen on both sides of the straits. Fishermen in Mannr Island have been complaining that Indian fishermen intruded into their area, taking their catch and sometimes breaking their nets with their boats. The navy, though ready to show their power in the Jaffna lagoon, have been chary about acting aginst Indian fishermen.

 When General Kobbekaduwa visited Mannar before his death in l992, a complaint about Indian fishermen was made to him by representatives of the fishing community at Pesali.The genral smiled and replied,"The best we could do is to ask our foreign ministry to complain to the Indian foreign ministry."

 The treatment of this particular fishermen appears to reflect a deep seated anti - Indian feeling in the forces.

 17....(20s), Mannar Town. Arrested SLA July 1991. Taken to Telecom Camp, Mannar Town and assaulted with a baton, breaking part of a front tooth. When prisoner asked for water, a soldier undid his trousers, urinated into a vessel, mixed it with cement, put the broken front tooth into mixture & made prisoner swallow it. Taken to Thallady next day. Both thumbs tied together, hung and beaten. Then hung upside down, poured petrol into nostrils & eyes and given plastic bag treatment. Tortured for 3 days. Produced before the ICRC in late July 1991. Torture then greatly reduced. Then August Magazine, February 1992 Kalutura and released July 1992.
Symptoms: TR,SK,Visual difficulties and Chest pain.[Top]

2.3 Prisoners & International Organisations

 The two international organisations with which the prisoners above came into contact are the ICRC in most cases and the UNHCR in several of the cases from Mannar District. We have in our reports recorded the taking of prisoners from refugee camps in all districts of the Eastern Province, a large number of whom were later not accounted for. The same thing has happened in Pesalai, though on a smaller scale, despite a UNHCR presence.

 The ICRC has had varying access to detention camps in areas of the North-East with a Sri Lankan Forces' presence. As to whether all or only selected prisoners were seen by the ICRC,the second has usually been the case. We do not have adequate information on the pattern in recent months. What is found in our reports represents the changing pattern up to about a year ago (1991 end).

 Earlier on, certainly, prisoners to be eliminated were not shown to the ICRC. In Mannar the ICRC in general had access to prisoners, not upon arrest, but after the torture session was over. (See also Ch.4,  Report 9 .). This role of the ICRC served a purpose besides adding something to the safety of those already tortured. Those seen by the ICRC could and have given information on others not seen. How effectively such information is used depends much on the local ICRC representatives. Some of the prisoners listed in our reports have the impression that the ICRC was not aggressive enough. Of course, the long term benefits to the prisoners from the ICRC presence depend on its overall institutional character and how the Sri Lankan Forces as an institution respond. This is too large an issue for our limited experience. But in our experience there are notable local variations.

 The ICRC in Batticaloa once had a very conscientious lady. As soon as an arrest was reported, she was known to go to the place immediately and remonstrate with the person in charge until some assurance was given. According to sources in Batticaloa, when the local office had a new head, this lady was asked to go slow, to her annoyance. This may be because of a different perception of what was best for the detainees.[Top]



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