Report: Seventeen year old Tamils tortured in Sri Lanka

Damning details of ongoing torture including rape of Tamils allegedly at the hands of Sri Lankan state officials have resurfaced with calls for the government to prove its commitment to zero tolerance policy on torture by prosecuting perpetrators.

Tamils as young as seventeen have been tortured in recent years, according to Britain’s leading organisation for rehabilitation of torture victims.

They have been arrested and detained for being involved with the Tamil Tigers who were defeated militarily 10 years ago, which makes the teenagers younger than 10 years at the time.

In its latest report, Freedom from Torture (FFT) examines details from 16 Tamils who were detained between 2015 and 2017 in ongoing security operations carried out by military and specialised police units in post-conflict Sri Lanka.

“Ages range from 17 to 43 years old. Three people were detained as legal minors (all at 17 years old), one at the time of their most recent detention, and two others at the time of a previous detention,” the report says.

Beating & burning

Thirteen have been the target of various types of sexual torture and nine have been raped.

“All were tortured in the custody of state officials. Most survivors knew little about the perpetrators, though some specifically described them as agents of the Criminal Investigation Department, Terrorism Investigation Division or Sri Lankan Army. Several mentioned that the perpetrator(s) spoke in Sinhalese, or broken Tamil, and some said that perpetrators were intoxicated during the interrogation and torture.”

All experienced physical and psychological forms of torture during their most recent detention episode, says the report.

“This included beating with various instruments, burning, positional torture and asphyxiation techniques, as well as threats and humiliation. Thirteen people (nine men, all four women) disclosed sexual torture, of whom nine were raped (six men, three women). Most described poor detention conditions, including the use of solitary confinement.”

Zero tolerance (?)

Sri Lanka, which is a party to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, claims it follows a “Zero Tolerance Policy” on torture.

“If there is a zero-tolerance policy then impunity has to end,” said Steve Crawshaw, Director of Policy & Advocacy at Freedom from Torture told journalists in Colombo.

“Sadly, as we and other places have made clear and clean, the UN itself, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, talk about ongoing torture, we need something done about that."

FFT calls upon the government to make its claim “a reality” by “suspending from duty those accused of torture and launching criminal investigations and prosecuting those responsible no matter how powerful or senior they are within government or the military, policy and security services”.

“The government’s proclaimed commitment to protect human rights seems empty, in the context of ongoing torture. We don’t need box-ticking exercises, we need meaningful change,” added Steve Crawshaw.

Seven years in a row Sri Lanka has been named the top country of origin for torture survivors referred to Freedom from Torture for clinical services and medico-legal reports.☐



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.