Grave concerns over removal flight given evidence of ongoing torture in Sri Lanka

Having forensically documented the ongoing torture of Tamils in Sri Lanka after the civil war, including a number of individuals who were tortured after returning to the country, Freedom from Torture is gravely concerned about the risks facing refused asylum seekers whom the UK Border Agency is planning to forcibly remove on a charter flight next week.

The removal flight – planned for Wednesday 28 September – and the risk of torture and other ill-treatment upon return will be up for discussion at the Labour Party Conference this weekend in Liverpool, as Freedom from Torture and Human Rights Watch – in conjunction with Channel 4 – host a fringe event: ‘Values & human rights in UK Foreign Policy: where now after Sri Lanka’s killing fields?’.

The event – chaired by the foreign affairs correspondent Jonathan Miller who has reported extensively on Sri Lanka for Channel 4 News – will consider how the UK Government should respond to alleged war crimes committed in late 2009, as well as new evidence of recent torture and human rights abuses which has come to light since the end of the civil war.

One Freedom from Torture client, who was arrested and detained by the Sri Lankan CID (Criminal Investigation Department) earlier this year and interrogated about his brother’s links to the LTTE, said:

“They tortured me inside a room by removing my clothes and hitting me with burning irons. They kept me for two days and my body was all swollen. They showed me photographs of LTTE members, including my brother’s picture, and asked me what he was doing now. I told them that I don’t have any contact with him.”

Every year, Freedom from Torture receives hundreds of referrals for survivors of torture from Sri Lanka. So far in 2011, our Medico-Legal Reports Service has been asked to forensically document injuries associated with torture for some 70 individual Sri Lankan survivors.

On 12 September, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent to the President of the Human Rights Council the UN Panel of Expert’s report, produced in early 2011, which found "credible allegations" of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka. The Panel also concluded that the Sri Lankan Government’s ‘Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’ (LLRC) is “deeply flawed” and “does not meet international standards” for effective accountability.