In early March 2013, Deputy Minister Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, known as Col. Karuna, called for war crimes investigations into the Tamil National Alliance, an opposition coalition of ethnic Tamil political parties, presumably because some members had links to the secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Karuna was effectively the second-in-command of the LTTE and the head of its Eastern Province forces until he broke away from the group’s leader, Vellupillai Prabhakaran, in March 2004.
“Karuna’s call for war crimes investigations should not allow him to airbrush out his own role in atrocities,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “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.”
LTTE forces under Karuna’s command were directly involved in some of the worst crimes of Sri Lanka’s 26-year-long armed conflict, which ended in May 2009, Human Rights Watch said. 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.