Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Sri Lanka accused of Tamil torture

Sri Lanka has been accused of torturing suspect Tamil rebels

Sri Lankan security forces have been accused of continuing to use torture, rape and other sexual violence against suspected members of the Tamil Tiger rebels by an international rights group.

Human Rights Watch said that although the decades-long war ended in May 2009, politically motivated sexual violence against suspects in custody continues to this day. It called for an international investigation into the practice.

"Sri Lankan security forces have committed untold numbers of rapes of Tamil men and women in custody," said Brad Adams, the group's Asia director. "These are not just wartime atrocities but continue to the present, putting every Tamil man and woman arrested for suspected LTTE involvement at serious risk," he said, using the acronym for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the formal name of the rebels.

The violent 26-year war saw ethnic minority Tamil rebels fighting for their own homeland against troops from the Sinhalese majority government. More than 100,000 people were killed on both sides before the government crushed the rebels with a bloody push into rebel-controlled northern areas. A UN report has said tens of thousands of civilians were killed in the final five months of fighting alone.

The rebels themselves have been accused of widespread atrocities, including holding civilians as human shields, using child soldiers and killing people who tried to leave areas under their control.

The report comes as the United Nations Human Rights Council is set to discuss Sri Lanka's alleged wartime abuses at its annual meeting in Geneva this week.

A military spokesman rejected Human Rights Watch's allegations, saying they lack credibility. He called them "fabricated allegations" and "good creative writing."

The 41-page report, titled "'We Will Teach You a Lesson': Sexual Violence against Tamils by Sri Lankan Security Forces," provides detailed accounts of 75 cases of alleged rape and sexual abuse that occurred from 2006-2012 in both official and secret detention centres throughout Sri Lanka.

Human Rights Watch said most of the victims spoke to them outside Sri Lanka, and it corroborated their accounts with medical and legal reports. Because it was not able to openly conduct research in Sri Lanka or interview people still in custody, it said the cases in its report likely represent only a tiny fraction of custodial rape in political cases.

It said many of the cases followed a pattern of an individual being abducted from home by unidentified men, taken to a detention centre, and abusively interrogated about alleged activities of the rebels. It said men and women reported being raped on multiple days, often by several people, with the army, police, and pro-government paramilitary groups frequently participating. The victims also described being beaten, hung by their arms, partially asphyxiated, and burned with cigarettes.

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