Sri Lanka must act on “culture of torture”
Freedom from Torture welcomes the report this week on Sri Lanka from the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Torture. The report refers to Freedom from Torture evidence and describes an ongoing “culture of torture”.
The UN report highlights how, since the civil war ended in May 2009, the legacy of the conflict contributes to unaccountable security forces and very few protections or safeguards for Sri Lankan citizens. Those held under the widely criticised Prevention of Terrorism Act face torture and ill-treatment as “routine practice”.
Over the last year, Freedom from Torture has worked closely with the Special Rapporteur’s team and the report specifically references input from our clients on why accountability for torture is essential, not just for survivors of torture personally, but also for the long-term peace and security of the country. As the Special Rapporteur observes, failing to bring torturers to justice is an obstacle for reconciliation and breeds further impunity for current abuses.
Ann Hannah, Head of International Advocacy at Freedom from Torture, stresses the need for action from the Sri Lankan government:
“This report, along with UN Committee Against Torture findings late last year, demonstrates the need for a real political commitment from the Sri Lankan government to end torture. Co-operation with UN human rights mechanisms only goes so far. The government has to turn words into action; their rhetoric about reconciliation is undermined every time there is another new case of torture, mistreatment or harassment by state forces.
“We hope that the Human Rights Council review of Sri Lanka’s progress on these issues in March will lead to renewed support from the government of Sri Lanka, the UN and Sri Lanka’s international partners, including the UK, for extensive security sector reform. This must include a particular emphasis on dismantling torture structures and the creation of, as previously promised, an internationalised accountability process that has the confidence of survivors to end the culture of impunity throughout the security forces.
“It is particularly encouraging to see a reminder for UN member states of their international obligations to protect vulnerable people from being returned to countries where they are at risk of torture. We have documented a number of cases where Tamils have faced torture on return from the UK and continue to call for the UK government to ensure that asylum policy reflects the risk for those returning with a real or perceived past connection with the Tamil Tigers, at whatever level and whether directly and/or through a family member or acquaintance.”
Freedom from Torture’s UN evidence was based on forensic medical evidence documented by our expert clinicians for 279 people who have experienced torture in Sri Lanka since the end of the civil war. Sri Lanka continues to be the top country of origin of our clients.