Sri Lanka says it will investigate alleged torture of Tamils

2017-11-10 08:13
a Sri Lankan man known as Witness #202 shows branding marks on his back during an interview in London. (Frank Augstein, AP).

a Sri Lankan man known as Witness #202 shows branding marks on his back during an interview in London. (Frank Augstein, AP).

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

New Delhi - Sri Lanka says it will investigate allegations by more than 50 ethnic Tamils that they were abducted and tortured by police or army soldiers long after the end of the island nation's civil war.

An Associated Press investigation published on November 8 offered detailed testimony from 20 of the men, along with photographs of injuries they said were sustained when they were raped, branded or beaten repeatedly in custody. All spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals against relatives or friends in the Tamil minority who remain in Sri Lanka.

Dozens of medical and psychological evaluations reviewed by the AP concluded their claims were credible.

The men, now seeking political asylum in Europe, said their captors accused them of working to revive the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which battled Sri Lankan government forces for decades until their defeat in 2009. The Sri Lankan government has said repeatedly, however, that the rebel group is no longer a threat.

In a letter sent to the AP on November 9, the Sinhalese-dominated government said it "strongly condemns any act of torture" and would ensure that any such allegations are "investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law".

It urged those with evidence of abuse to come forward and report it.

"The government seeks the assistance and co-operation of all those relevant parties in this endeavour including parties outside the country, as evidence is key in the conduct of investigations," said the letter, signed by Foreign Affairs Ministry official Prasad Kariyawasam.

Human rights groups have cautioned that many would be reluctant to come forward, given that there is a large degree of distrust from asylum seekers who fear for the families they left behind.

'War crimes'

The government noted in its letter that some allegations were already being dealt with. This year, authorities have disciplined 33 members of the police force and dismissed one, it said, with another 100 cases still pending. Also this year, it has received 28 new complaints of alleged torture or abuse. It's unclear if any of those relate to the Tamil men who spoke with the AP.

Sri Lanka has faced years of criticism for dismissing calls by the United Nations and foreign governments for an independent inquiry into alleged war crimes and other abuses committed by both sides during the 26-year war. The Tamil Tiger rebels, as they were known, were designated a terrorist organisation after a wave of suicide bombings, and were also accused of using child soldiers and killing Tamil political rivals. The government's forces were accused of targeting civilians, which is considered a war crime under international law.

Last month, the United Nations special rapporteur for transitional justice said Sri Lanka was nowhere close to where it should be in dealing with allegations of war crimes and other rights violations from its civil war. Pablo de Greiff said the government's failure to address issues he'd highlighted two years earlier raised questions "about the determination of the government to undertake a comprehensive transitional justice programme".

Those issues, he said, included releasing civilian Tamil lands occupied by the military, repealing a harsh anti-terror law, expediting cases against terror suspects incarcerated for long periods of time and stopping intimidating forms of surveillance.

The chief of Sri Lanka's army, which is still immensely popular and powerful after defeating the rebels, told the AP last week that the government and security forces were working toward establishing protocols for such investigations to guarantee postwar truth and justice, and that such a task could not be dictated from abroad by people who did not witness the war.

"We have accepted a transitional justice process ... but that process will take a little bit of time. We have to educate the troops who fought, then the public. It cannot be worked on somebody else's timetable," army commander Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake said. "Somebody sits outside the country and immediately says, 'You have done this. This is the court where you are going to be held responsible.' Which country would accept it?"

But he denied that Sri Lankan soldiers or members of the Criminal Investigations Department, a police unit that investigates serious crimes, could have been involved in interrogating or abusing Tamils after the war.

"That doesn't mean we were involved before 2010," he said. "There's no reason for us to do that now. ... We want them to come here, and to see the truth" that Sri Lanka is cultivating a multicultural society where Tamils are welcome, he said.

Like other Sri Lankan authorities interviewed over the past year, he suggested that such allegations from members of the Tamil diaspora or asylum seekers may be expressions of their frustration with the rebels' defeat, and an effort to undermine Sri Lanka today.

"The people who don't want to be here, the people who don't want to be sent out from their own community, who live in Europe are creating all these issues," he said. If someone reports allegations and presents evidence that Sri Lankan authorities can investigate, "I would have taken those responsible to task. It didn't happen."

Read more on:    sri lanka

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.