Torture prevails despite reforms - Amnesty International

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 01 June 1999, 15:01 GMT]
In a news release published today titled, " Torture prevails despite reforms", the human rights pressure group Amnesty International said that "despite several positive steps in recent years, torture continues to mar Sri Lanka's human rights record."

The statement said that while torture was reported on a daily basis as a result of the conflict in the North - East of the island criminal suspects were also tortured during routine policing in all parts of the island.

Although "torture by the security forces is reported almost daily in the context of their ongoing armed conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam......the problem extends to routine policing, with police officers regularly torturing criminal suspects and people detained in relation to local disputes," said the statement.

All groups involved in the conflict have been responsible for torture, said the Amnesty statement.

In the northern parts of the island, "most torture allegations are directed against members of the army, while the navy has also been implicated," said Amnesty, while in the east, members of the security forces and the "several armed groups fighting alongside the security forces against the LTTE," were also implicated.

The human rights group listed a wide variety of torture methods that included "near-suffocation by either "dry submarino" -pulling a shopping bag containing chillies and/or petrol over the head and tying it to the base of the neck, or "wet submarino"-lowering someone into a water tub or well."

The statement also listed examples of more "extreme forms" of torture including "burning with melted polythene, drilling into feet, inserting nails into feet or other parts of the body and rape of female detainees."

Despite special legal safeguards designed to protect women held in custody," a number of rapes by members of the security forces are reported every year," said Amnesty adding that because of the cultural taboo around sexual violence "it is thought that many cases of rape go unreported."

The report said that the LTTE also tortured prisoners by, "inserting pins and nails under fingernails and burning people with heated rods." The human rights group further said that according to reports it had received, "children as young as 14 have been ill treated after being forcibly recruited by the LTTE."

Amnesty also said that is had received "several chilling reports of young Tamil children being tortured in custody on suspicion of being LTTE member or to force family members to hand themselves over."

Amnesty commended Sri Lanka's ratification of the UN Convention Against Torture as "a real achievement" and recognised the government's pledge before the UN Committee Against Torture in May 1998 that "every effort would be made" to implement the "conclusions and recommendations of the committee."

However the statement notes that Sri Lanka's commitment to the torture committee, "has yet to be put into practise," adding that changes in the law have not yet lead to "changes on the ground."

The reasons for the continued prevalence of torture include, " current impunity for torturers....the security forces' wide powers to detain people long-term without having to bring them before a judicial authority.....the failure to enforce existing legal safeguards, the lack of an investigative body independent of the police," said Amnesty.

The human rights group also said that the torture of criminal suspects during normal policing was often caused by the close relationship between the police and local politicians, corruption within the police force and "a general lack of independence on the part of the police."

Amnesty "calls on the government of Sri Lanka to fully implement the recommendations of the Committee against Torture," and "calls on the LTTE to bring an immediate halt to torture and other violations of international humanitarian law," said the statement.


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