UN: At least 50 Tamils allegedly tortured under Sirisena - Wickremesinghe rule

By Indika Gamage

The United Nations have received complaints from at least fifty Tamils who have been tortured since the present Sri Lankan government came to office in 2015.

In a damning report, a UN expert concludes that use of torture and ill-treatment under draconian terror laws remains ‘routine’ and ‘systemic’.

UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism Ben Emmerson who was in Sri Lanka a year ago has met detainees accused under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

Tamils disproportionately affected

“The Special Rapporteur was extremely concerned to learn that eighty per cent of those most recently arrested under the PTA in late 2016 complained of torture and physical ill- treatment following their arrest, in cases which were later dealt with under ordinary criminal law,” says his report released in Geneva on 23 Monday.

“Following his visit, allegations that torture took place since the election of the new current government against at least 50 Tamils, emerged.”

The 18 page report confirms widely expressed fears that the country’s terror laws target the Tamils disproportionately.

“When viewed side by side with the figures that show that Tamils have been, and still are, overwhelmingly and disproportionately affected by the operation of the Act, a picture emerges of widespread institutional stigmatisation of a single community.”

Brutal methods

The UN expert has detailed horrifying methods of torture that  had either been supported by independent medical evidence, or accepted by the judiciary as the basis for excluding a confession at trial.

“During his interviews with current and former PTA detainees, the Special Rapporteur  heard distressing testimonies of very brutal and cruel methods of torture, including beatings with sticks, the use of stress positions, asphyxiation using plastic bags drenched in kerosene, pulling out of fingernails, insertion of needles beneath the fingernails, use of various forms of water torture, suspension of individuals for several hours by their thumbs, and mutilation of genitals.”

The Special Rapporteur’s has recommended to impose a moratorium on the use of PTA to be immediately established, pending its rapid repeal.

War crimes

Ben Emmerson has criticised the country’s president for coming to the rescue of an ex-army commander accused of war crimes, despite public claims that members of the armed forces who had committed crimes would be brought to justice.

When the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) and its Latin American partner organisations filed war crime charges in August 2017 against General Jagath Jayasuriya, who served as the Sri Lanka's ambassador to six Latin American countries, the Sri Lanka president vowed to safeguard him.

"I state very clearly that I will not allow anyone in the world to touch Jagath Jayasuriya or any other military chief or any war hero in this country," announced Maithripala Sirisena.

“Unfortunately, since the Special Rapporteur’s visit, the President sought to shield a former army general from a criminal complaint which accused him of command responsibility for war crimes,” says Ben Emmerson.

“This falls far short of Sri Lanka’s international commitment to achieve a lasting and just solution to its underlying problems, for the benefit of all of its communities, to establish a meaningful system of transitional justice including the rights to truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence, that is governed by the principles of equality and accountability, and to put in place essential and urgently needed reform of the security sector.”

Calling for the urgent reform of all the institutions of the security sector by placing them under full civilian control and oversight Special Rapporteur Emmerson urges Sri Lanka to develop a vetting process to ensure that all security personnel and public officials involved in human rights violations are removed from service.☐



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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