Human Rights

International call to review naval ties with Sri Lanka

On the eve of a visit by US top envoy Samantha Power to Sri Lanka, an international rights watchdog has urged governments to review naval cooperation with the island nation after a team of UN experts confirmed the existence of a torture site within a naval base.

Following a visit by the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearance (UNWGEID) to a torture facility maintained by Sri Lanka Navy in the eastern port town of Trincomalee, the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) in a statement released on 20 November requests governments to consider the credible allegation by UNWGEID that naval personnel were involved in systematic torture over several years.

The US and India are major partners with Sri Lanka in naval cooperation. Since the end of war, US Pacific Command participated in several joint naval and military exercise in the Eastern seas of Sri Lanka. In July 2010, the US naval ship USS Pearl Harbour, carrying 24 officers and 328 sailors visited Trincomalee, where they participated in a series of special programmes organized by the Sri Lanka Navy.

The writing on the wall

Based on drawings seen on the walls of underground torture cells in the Trincomalee naval base, UNWGEID had concluded that inmates were held there in 2010.

Recalling that war victims had testified to Sri Lankan navy shelling civilians in the safe zones in 2009, the ITJP statement reproduced in full below calls upon Sri Lanka and other governments to take several immediate steps in the light of the findings of the Trincomalee torture camp.

ITJP has also referred to the existence of another torture site in Vavuniya Joseph Camp in addition to the one in Trincomalee identified by victims as 'Gota's Camp'.

Read the full ITJP statement

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