28 March 2020 :
Sri Lanka's president on 26 March 2020 pardoned and released an army officer sentenced to death for slitting the throats of Tamil civilians, including four children, during the island's bloody ethnic war.
Staff Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake was to be hanged for the December 2000 killing in a case held up by previous Sri Lankan governments as an example of rare accountability over abuses during the conflict.
A court convicted him of murdering eight members of the Tamil minority, including a five-year-old and three teenagers after a 13-year trial.
They were killed as they returned to their bombed homes to salvage what was left of their belongings and their bodies were found buried in a cesspit near an army camp at Mirusuvil on the Jaffna peninsula.
The Supreme Court unanimously rejected the officer's appeal and upheld the death penalty last year.
But President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has now "instructed the Ministry of Justice to release Sergeant Ratnayake from prison", a spokeswoman for his office said.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Sri Lanka's main political party for the minority community, condemned what it said was an "opportunistic" decision to release Ratnayake.