Response to Rajapaksa attempt to seize power

In response to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa's attempt to seize power, Sonya Sceats, Chief Executive of Freedom from Torture said:

“We are deeply troubled by this political crisis in Sri Lanka and the prospect of escalating brutality by the military, police and intelligence services.

“Rajapaksa's presidency was a reign of terror for countless in Sri Lanka, especially in the minority Tamil community. Thousands have been referred to us for torture that happened on his watch. Many traumatised survivors are in treatment with us still.

“We call on the UK government to halt all forced returns to Sri Lanka and order an urgent review of the Home Office's asylum policy on Sri Lanka to ensure no lives are put at risk by the UK.”

Notes to editors:

1. Freedom from Torture is the only organisation in the UK dedicated solely to the treatment of torture survivors.

2. Freedom from Torture has a long history of exposing torture in Sri Lanka through public reports in 20002011 and 2015.

3. For the past seven years Sri Lanka has been the top country of origin for people referred to Freedom from Torture for clinical services including psychological therapy and forensic documentation of torture injuries.

4. The charity has forensically documented more than 80 cases of people who were tortured after returning to Sri Lanka from the UK following the end of the conflict, the majority of whom report being interrogated specifically about their reasons for being in the UK, their activities and/or their contacts. Most of these cases involved people who were targeted for torture after returning to Sri Lanka voluntarily although some were forcibly returned. While the torture in most of these cases happened under Rajapaksa's presidency, Freedom from Torture has documented multiple cases of torture in Sri Lanka since the change of government in 2015.