UN confirms ongoing torture under Sri Lanka present government (Video)

In a damning statement against Sri Lanka, UN has confirmed that torture continues under the present Sri Lanka government while a human rights organisation documenting violations  has published a new report detailing graphic descriptions of torture and sexual abuse during the past two years.

Following a four day visit to Sri Lanka UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism concludes that torture under the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government remains "endemic and routine".

"All of the evidence points to the conclusion that the use of torture has been, and remains today, endemic and routine, for those arrested and detained on national security grounds," says Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson.

This is despite Sri Lanka claiming to adopt a ‘zero tolerance policy’ towards to the use of torture; and appointing a Committee to Eradicate Torture by the Police, in July 2016, the UN notes.

"We feel vindicated," said Yasmin Sooka of the Johannesburg  based International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) at the release of their latest report 'Unstopped' in London

It contains shocking details of torture in 2016/17 from victims who fled the country.

Since 2013 ITJP has been documenting ongoing torture in Sri Lanka by gathering evidence from hundreds of Sri Lanka torture victims in exile.

Targeting Tamils

The UN and ITJP both emphasise that torture in Sri Lanka disproportionately targets Tamils and those perceived to be associated with Tamil Tigers (LTTE).

"Children of former LTTE cadres are also being abducted by Sri Lanka government intelligence," said the ITJP’s Executive Director, Yasmin Sooka.

Ben Emmerson has found that mostly Tamils are arrested under the draconic Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and tortured in order to obtain confessions.

"Since the authorities use this legislation disproportionately against members of the Tamil community, it is this community that has borne the brunt of the State’s well-oiled torture apparatus" he says adding that the prevalence of torture is shocking.

"Entire communities have been stigmatised and targeted for harassment and arbitrary arrest and detention, and any person suspected of association, however indirect, with the LTTE remains at immediate risk of detention and torture."

Torture: 'a lucrative business'

Torture of those in custody under the PTA  is on an “industrial scale” and is “among the worst in the world”, the Special Rapporteur told journalists in Colombo.

ITJP has documented a highly structured "money making industry" of torture where at least three teams operate to abduct, interrogate and collect ransom for release.

“It is hardly surprising that Sri Lanka’s white van abductions continue as those in charge of past system crimes have been promoted and rewarded by this Government, which reassures perpetrators that  they will never be held accountable,” said Yasmin Sooka. “In addition, torturing Tamils has become a highly lucrative business,” she added.

The ITJP’s report indicates that the ongoing torture is not the conduct of a few “rotten apples” in the Sri Lankan security forces as it includes senior officers who themselves participate in the torture which is systematic and condoned.

War crimes accountability

Despite protests by the war affected and activists the UN, in March 2016, granted Sri Lanka further two years for the establishment of a framework for promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights, which the government first promised in September 2015.

The  progress on Sri Lanka' commitment has also "ground to a virtual halt," says the UN Special Rapporteur.


"There is little evidence that perpetrators of war crimes committed by members of the Sri Lankan armed forces are being brought to justice," he said.

The UN has expressed frustration by the government's repeated pledges on accountability.

"The Special Rapporteur was given a personal assurance by the Prime Minister that once the current process of counter-terrorism reform had been completed, the Government would pass legislation paving the way for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to be established, and set up an Office of the Special Prosecutor to bring criminal charges against those involved in the most serious atrocities committed on both sides of the conflict." says the UN. 

"These are, of course, steps which the Government promised to the international community that it would have delivered in full by now."

In the absence of government action to reform laws, bring perpetrators to justice and put an end to ongoing  human rights violations by security forces and the police, Ben Emmerson warns that it could lead, "even to reigniting the conflict”.

'Emmerson lacks calibre' 

However, the Sri Lanka government has angrily rejected calls by the UN to take immediate action.

"He can't dictate like this, we can't make laws immediately. They have to go through parliament ... There is a process. He must understand what democracy is," Justice Minister Wijayadasa Rajapakshe has told Reuters.

Visiting UN Rapporteurs who criticize  government  inaction, "lack calibre and have hidden agendas," he told Colombo based Daily Mirror.