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Thousands of Tamil youth in jail without being charged

Thousands of Tamil youth are being held in military and police custody without charges, a former diplomat has told the Lankan war commission.

world Updated: Sep 20, 2010 23:32 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Thousands of Tamil youth are being held in military and police custody without charges, a former diplomat has told the Lankan war commission.

Incarcerated for years, these youth could throw up ``many more Prabhakarans’’ because of their mental state, K Godage told the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in his deposition.

The LLRC, set up President Mahinda Rajapaksa in May, is looking into reasons behind the breakdown of the 2002-2008 ceasefire and the final years of the civil war, which ended in May, 2009.

``I regret to inform you that we are breeding many more Prabhakarans,’’ Godage said, referring to, V Prabhakaran, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who led the rebels from the late ‘70s till he died in May last year.

``… there are said to be over two thousand Tamil youth being held in custody; there are over five hundred (500) at Welikada Remand, eight hundred (800) at Boosa and a further seven hundred (700) being held by the Terrorism Investigation Division of the Police; these, over two thousand of them, have been held for years without being charged,’’ Godage, who's served at the Sri Lankan Lankan High COmmission in New Delhi in the early '90s, told the Commission in his written submission.

At the end of the war, nearly 11000 Tamil men and women were arrested on suspicion of being LTTE cadres. While some have been released and their rehabilitation process is one, thousands remain in custody.

``Some of them have been remanded (in prison) repeatedly. They need psychiatric help,’’ Godage, who’s the head of the board for prison visitors, told HT.

One of the mandates of the LLRC is to recommend to the government measures that would prevent the outbreak of a similar civil conflict in Sri Lanka, which lasted nearly three decades.

``I would urge that the government take this matter seriously and use psychiatrists and religious leaders of all faiths to engage with these youths and “recondition” their minds, for a disaster awaits us for these youth cannot be kept in prison indefinitely,’’ Godage said.