STF in the spotlight: New report makes startling accusations

A new report by a human rights organisation led by a former UN panel membe, has made startling accusations against the Police Special Task Force (STF).

The report by the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP ) led by former UN panel member YasminSooka, reveals why members of the Special Task Force should not be sent abroad as UN peacekeepers without stringent vetting and screening. This unit has from its inception in 1983 been steeped in allegations of human rights violations, including abductions, torture, killings and extrajudicial executions.

The violations described in the report speak to an amoral attitude to the taking of life and to human dignity, and where dehumanisation has become institutionalised. Shockingly, those responsible for the violations have been rewarded post-war by successive Governments in Sri Lanka, the report said.

The STF was a frontline combat unit in the East of Sri Lanka at the climax of the civil war and should be subjected to the same vetting and screening criteria as military units who fought in the war when considered for UN peacekeeping roles. Individuals belonging to military units implicated in the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) investigation into Sri Lanka have been barred from peacekeeping.

The ITJP has collected 56 names of individuals in the STF who should not be sent as UN peacekeepers. This breaks down as a preliminary list of 32 names of STF officers involved in frontline command positions who should be barred from peacekeeping, an additional list of 24 names of alleged perpetrators or individuals complicit in grave violations of human rights in the STF, the name of an STF officer who is currently serving in Africa who should be sent home immediately and investigated in connection with multiple grave violations in Sri Lanka and detailed information on secret torture sites that were operated in the past by Tamil paramilitaries.

The information has not been made public in order to protect witnesses in any future judicial process. The names have been shared with the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping (DPKO), the Department of Field Support (DFS), the Conduct and Discipline Unit (CDU) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

This report is the first by the ITJP to be based primarily on insider witnesses, interviewed in four different countries by multiple investigators. They include several former STF officers and Tamil paramilitaries.

An insider witness describes how during the final phase of the war in the East of Sri Lanka, Tamil women were forced into providing sex to STF members, with a large number forced into sexual slavery, including some women being subjected to frequent ‘visits’ by different personnel and expected to provide sexual services for them. This amounts to sexual exploitation and abuse.

A witness describes a colleague going to a house and ordering the husband to stand outside while going inside and raping his wife. The witness said his colleagues’ behavior would vary from place to place depending on the attitude of the Officer in Charge of the area – some would condone sexual violations, others would not.

In February 2018 it became public that the last 3 Sri Lankan contingent commanders sent to Lebanon had not been subject to due diligence by Sri Lanka and should have been vetted out. The public disclosure of this information led to the suspension of the deployment of the fourth contingent under commander, Lieutenant Colonel Rathnappuli Wasantha Kumara Hewage, days before he was due to leave. However there has been no transparency about what has happened subsequently to Lt. Col. Hewage’s bid to become a peacekeeper.

The fact that a frontline commando from STF could be serving as a UN peacekeeper in Africa also speaks to the failure of vetting. ITJP says it has credible information that this individual has been involved in serious human rights violations, including involvement in extrajudicial killings.

“One STF officer who appears currently to be serving in a UN peacekeeping mission in Africa is alleged to have ordered summary executions of Tamils in the East of Sri Lanka in 2006-7,” said ITJP’s Executive Director, Yasmin Sooka. “This shows the UN is still clearly failing in its obligation when it comes to the vetting of Sri Lankans for peacekeeping.”

In addition there are still very serious concerns about lack of criminal accountability for the 134 Sri Lankan peacekeepers sent home in 2007 in connection with allegations of systematic child sexual exploitation in Haiti. Not one individual has spent time behind bars for allegedly raping children, the ITPJ report said.

ITJP says to its knowledge the only thorough vetting has been carried out in respect of the 200 Sri Lankan peacekeepers deployed to Mali and this was done by OHCHR in Geneva. At one point there was discussion of as many as 3,500 Sri Lankan troops going abroad as peacekeepers. This number requires a better vetting system to ‘do no harm’ to the troop receiving countries whose vulnerable civilians deserve to be protected from sexual predators and alleged war criminals.

One Sinhalese man, still traumatised, described his work in an STF ‘white van’ abduction team in Colombo as ‘like a horror film’. Another interrogator active during the final years of the civil war in Colombo said of his victims: “We would garrotte, strangle, stab or beat them to death”.

There is also no indication that the STF abduction teams are still active under the current Government though the ITJP has documented ongoing abduction, torture and sexual violence by other security forces units.

ITJP is calling on the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) to investigate the role of the STF in enforced disappearances, as well as that of other security forces.

It also says the OMP must call for the personnel records of STF members and those of the security forces implicated in allegations of enforced disappearances investigate them and hold specific inquiries which include families of the disappeared, who should be informed of all evidence that becomes available in respect of the whereabouts of their family members.

10 Comments for “STF in the spotlight: New report makes startling accusations”

  1. Robert

    I was in Sri Lanka when this horror happened.

    Report : Amnesty International Urgent Action Appeal, 21 May 1997

    Murugesupillai Koneswary, a mother of four children, was killed at her home in 11th Colony village by a grenade being thrown at her genitals on the evening of 17 May. Reportedly only her two-year-old child was present when the attackers entered her house. Her husband and three older children were not at home.
    Circumstantial evidence suggests that she may have been raped prior to being killed and that the perpetrators may have been one or more police officers attached to the nearby Central Camp police station, on the border between Batticaloa and Amparai districts.
    Neighbours say they heard screams from the house, and shortly afterwards they heard an explosion. When they tried to go to Murugesupillai Koneswary’s home, they heard shooting and rushed back indoors so they did not actually see the perpetrators. However, because this area is under the control of the police, observers claim that it is unlikely that there could have been any other people with arms in the area at that time.
    Local people believe that the perpetrators may have thrown the hand grenade near her genitals in order to cover up the evidence of rape.
    The husband of Murugesupillai Koneswary, who discovered her body, made a complaint at Central Camp police station. Some police officers then took her body to the hospital at Kalmunai. However, no medical examination was carried out. It is not clear why no examination took place. Some reports suggest that the police, who also advised the relatives to dispose of the body, may have pressurized the hospital authorities.

  2. Robert

    British Refugee Council Publication, Sri Lanka Monitor, May 1997

    “Policemen are accused of killing her after gang rape, by exploding a grenade inserted into her vagina. The brutal manner of the murder has shocked residents and human rights workers say rape is increasingly used to terrorise the population. Colombo NGO Women and Media Collective says at least seven rapes by security forces have been reported in the east since 31 December. TULF leader M Sivasithamparam says the police Special Task Force (STF) abducted four women from Sammanthurai and murdered one of them in late May. Fear has been expressed over Army search operations in the nights. People say some security force personnel wear masks during night searches to avoid identification.”

  3. Robert

    Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Sunday Times, 25 May 1997

    “The barbaric rape and murder of a young mother (Murugesupillai Koneswary) allegedly by some policemen has sent shockwaves around Batticaloa with the areas MP appealing to President Kumaratunga to order a full probe. Parliamentarian Joseph Pararajasingham in a letter to the President has said the 35 year old mother of four children had allegedly been raped last Saturday night in her house at the 11th colony village bordering Ampara. He said the policeman who committed this alleged offence had in a dastardly attempt to cover up the act exploded a hand grenade in the private parts of the victim. Police had then told relatives to bury the body without a medical examination.”

  4. Robert

    Amnesty International is deeply concerned at the reports of the killing and possible rape of Murugesupillai Koneswary at 11th Colony, Batticaloa district, on 17 May 1997, and at reports that the perpetrators are believed to be police officers. Amnesty International urges the Sri Lankan government to hold an independent investigation and to bring the alleged perpetrators to justice. Protection should be provided to witnesses to ensure that the alleged perpetrators cannot put pressure on them to influence the outcome of the investigation and the legal process. Adequate compensation should also be provided to the husband and children of Murugesupillai Koneswary. (Amnesty International AI Index: ASA 37/13/97 UA 147/97 Extrajudicial execution/rape 21 May 1997)

    NOTHING HAPPENED. THESE BUGGERS ARE PEACH KEEPING IN SOUTH AFFRICA. GOD SAVE WOMEN THERE.

  5. vithura

    STF was formed during the presidency of notoriously racist JR Jeyawardene, under the guidance and leadership of his son Ravi Jayawardene. The indiscriminate brutal unbridled violence unleashed against Tamil civilian population in the Eastern province, in the name of fighting terrorism was done with the full knowledge and blessings of JRJ himself. Muslims of the East connived with the STF
    in many instances when such brutal crimes were committed against Tamil civilians, for their own self interest of land grab from Tamils. All those who served in the STF and those politicians who were in their chain of command should hang their heads in shame.

  6. Justice for all

    STF has the worst of worst human right violations in SL. these people have a terrible track record of inhumane torture, killings, rape and horrible abduction and killing stories, non of it’s members should be ever in any peace keeping force. This STF force is a cancer to SL society.

    Including weilkada prison killings.

  7. Eng.M.V.R.Perera

    where is the creible evidence as at that time this place was under the control of the LTTE

  8. David Milli-banda

    it appears Sooka is finding it difficult to digest the Diaspora $$$ and have gone crazy firing on like a loose cannon in all directions.
    Wonder whether the wonder bor mervyn who offered a solution Pillai has anything to offer to Sook this yasmin ?

    Japan is the darling of the West………………..today. They did not rape but only had women to comfort them in China, Hong Kong & Phillippines. Its treated as harless even today by the West and ITPJ
    The 3 contingent commanders sent to lebanon must be raping Lebanon women on a daily basis…..
    The STF Officer in Africa must be killing on a daily basis too.
    Who are these Tamil para-militaries? Are they not a part of the Sampanthan’s coalition?
    ROBERT – Circumstential or Speculation ?
    M.Sivasittamparam the respected lion of nallur has gone to his maker.
    He is not a scum like you. Permit his Soul to RIP.
    Also Mr. Pararajasingham has too gone to his maker.

    Robert, were you playing ball with the Amnesty Intl in the West Indies during the World Cup there?

    VITHURA – STF was then trained by the SAS. Probably what they have done may be the methods employed by this Ex-British SAS men. They have passed onto the STF. Bad training. ?

    Select Justice for All with his selected men to for Peace keeping Duties.
    Case closed.

    Western INGOs are allowed to Speculate and cook up allgations. others actors have to make it look real for them to earn $$$$$$$$$$ & a luxurious life.

    Unfortunately STF were fighting a bunch of saints……….who were only armed with broom Sticks.

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