Forced prostitution, sex slavery with GoSL complicity – US cable
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 22 December 2010, 02:39 GMT]
Forced prostitution and trafficking abroad for sex of Tamil children are amongst the organized criminal activities being undertaken with the knowledge of the Sri Lankan government by its troops and allied Tamil paramilitary groups, according to another Wikileaked US embassy cable from May 2007. The cable says these practices, which constitute war crimes, were raised “repeatedly” with Sri Lanka’s top leadership, including the President and top ministers. “The preponderance of [accounts] and the extent to which they independently corroborate each other points to a pattern of GSL complicity with paramilitary groups on multiple levels,” the then US Ambassador Robert Blake wrote.
“It appears that this [government] involvement goes beyond merely turning a blind eye to these [paramilitary] organizations' less savory activities. At worst, these accounts suggest that top leaders of its security establishment may be providing direction to these paramilitaries,” he said.
When some military commanders wanted to clamp down on the paramilitaries, they received “orders from Defense Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa to not interfere with the paramilitaries,” the cable says (para3).
Earlier this year Secretary of State Hillary Clinton included Sri Lanka in a key speech at the United Nations on rape as a weapon of war.
The two main paramilitary groups – also registered as political parties in Sri Lanka – are the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP) led by Douglas Devanda and the Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) led by Karuna.
When the cable was sent, in May 2007, Devananda was Minister of Social Services and Social Welfare. Since then both Devananda and Muralitharan have been ministers in President Rajapaksa’s government.
Providing details, the US cable cites accounts from “a growing number of trusted Embassy contacts, often at personal risk” the below (numbers refer to cable paragraphs):
- In Jaffna the EPDP paramilitary group was running prostitution rings for soldiers, taking women and forcing them to have sex with between five and ten soldiers a night. (para18).
- The EPDP also child trafficking rings from its base in Delft. Tamil children were taken and sold them abroad into slavery, usually boys to work camps and girls to prostitution rings, using the EPDP’s networks in India and Malaysia.
- Preying on the ‘large number of widows’ in Jaffna, EPDP cadres seduce women with children, especially girls, with the promise of economic protection (para17).
- The children are taken “sometimes by force and sometimes with the promise that they will be provided a better life” (para17).
- The EPDP operated “in concert” with the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) in extra-judicial killings, forced prostitution and child trafficking (para15).
- Families began “arranging marriages for their daughters at a very young age in the hopes that the EPDP and [SLA] soldiers will be less likely to take them” (para18)
- In the east, the TMVP operated prostitution rings for the military out of government-run refugee camps, and also forced women to give up their children for trafficking (para11)
- The TMVP, which also became activite in government-controlled Jaffna “operates under government protection” and “is allowed to operate throughout the East in close proximity to SLA bases” (para5,8).
- The average age of TMVP cadres was 14 and “the GSL allows Karuna's cadres to recruit children forcibly from within IDP camps in the East” (para8).
- As in Jaffna, in the East, “families sometimes try to arrange their daughters' marriages at the age of 12 or 13 in the hope that it will reduce the likelihood of their being forced into prostitution.” (para11)
The US cable also notes that:
- Forced abortions, often under the guise of a regular check-up, [are] being performed on Tamil women suspected of being aligned with the LTTE. (para15)
- In addition to trafficking in children, the EPDP operates an illicit alcohol smuggling ring using child "mules." (para18).
The US cable says Ambassador Blake, as well as the Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission and Chief Political Office, “have met repeatedly” with Sri Lanka’s President, Foreign Minister, Foreign Secretary, Defense Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa, Human Rights Minister and others to demand the paramilitaries are “reined in” (para19). So did senior US officials who visited the island.
Since completing his term in Sri Lanka, Mr. Blake became US assistant secretary of state for South Asia.
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