Sri Lanka military raping, torturing Tamil prisoners, human rights group says

Published: February 26, 2013

ANDREW MACASKILL
BLOOMBERG

United Nations Human Rights Council

The United Nations Human Rights Council, whose latest session will run until March 22, will likely consider whether to again press Sri Lanka to investigate alleged abuses during its 26-year civil war, and especially in the last few weeks of fighting. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Sri Lanka’s military is continuing to rape and torture suspected members or supporters of the Tamil Tiger guerrilla movement, according to Human Rights Watch.

Almost four years after the end of the country’s war, the New York-based advocacy group said it has evidence that rape and other forms of sexual violence are still being used against Tamil detainees. The rights group today released its findings in a 141-page report called “We Will Teach You a Lesson.”

“Sri Lankan security forces have committed untold numbers of rapes of Tamil men and women in custody,” Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said in the report. “These are not just wartime atrocities but continue to the present.”

The group spoke to 75 people who said they had been raped in secret or official detention centers between 2006 and 2012.

The Sri Lankan High Commission in New Delhi did not immediately respond to a telephone call seeking comment. Calls to the defense ministry in Colombo out of normal office hours were not answered.

The United Nations Human Rights Council, whose latest session will run until March 22, will likely consider whether to again press Sri Lanka to investigate alleged abuses during its 26-year civil war, and especially in the last few weeks of fighting. About 100,000 people were killed in the conflict as the guerrillas fought for a separate homeland on the Indian Ocean island in a conflict that ended in 2009.

Human Rights Watch said most of those it interviewed spoke outside of Sri Lanka, adding that their accounts had been corroborated by medical and legal reports. Most of the cases involved the victim being abducted at home by unidentified men and taken to an interrogation center.

Bloody Offensive

The group spoke to one 23-year-old student in the U.K. who claimed he was kidnapped and interrogated. The man said he was beaten with electric wires, burned with cigarettes and raped over three consecutive nights.

A 31-year-old Tamil woman told the group she was interrogated after being picked up at her home in Colombo. She told the group that she was beaten with a sand-filled pipe and repeatedly raped.

The war finished with a bloody offensive by the Sri Lankan army that ended the rebels’ fight for a separate homeland in the north and east of the island, 30 miles off India’s south coast.

Peace has spurred investment in infrastructure and tourism, helping lift expansion in the $50 billion economy.

Sri Lanka’s military and the rebel Tamil Tigers committed serious violations of international law in the final stages of a conflict and caused as many as 40,000 civilian deaths, according to a United Nations report released in April 2011.

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