New report notes systematic persecution of Tamils in Lanka

A new international report has found that systematic persecution of the Tamil community still takes place through torture, rape, illegal detention and killings committed by the state authorities.

The report by the International Truth & Justice Project,  a project administered by the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa, run by transitional justice expert Yasmin Sooka who was also a member of the UN panel of experts on Sri Lanka after the war, shows how the use of torture and sexual violence is part of a well-coordinated policy, planned at the highest level of the Sri Lankan government and its security forces.

Yasmin-SookaThrough careful research brought to life by the vivid horror of victim testimonials, the report titled ‘Still Unfinished War: Sri Lanka’s Survivors of Torture and Sexual Violence 2009-2015′ goes as far as to identify torturers and rapists.

It also pinpoints 41 detention facilities, including secret camps, where victims say they were abused after the war. It lays bare the continuation of state-organised abductions, torture and sexual violence by the security forces long after the change of government in January 2015.

The victims’ stories are harrowing, many are deeply traumatised and continue to suffer mentally long after their detainment. Their families suffer too in the form of reprisals. More than a quarter of the 155 victims interviewed said that their close family members had been severely punished after they had escaped abroad.

The report warns the international community they will fail the victims of this conflict if they do not take action. It calls upon the UN Security Council to refer its report to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for further action against those who bear the greatest responsibility.

Among the 180 cases documented in the report, the pattern is that the young are detained, tortured and raped, the
elderly forced into debt to save them, while none can safely exercise even their most basic rights or feel safe. The on-going harassment and intimidation of the families in Sri Lanka of torture survivors who have fled abroad has continued unabated throughout 2015.

The structures of cruelty used for this ethnic persecution, political repression, extortion and revenge have not been dismantled six years after the war ended.

“We reveal the GPS coordinates for the secret naval intelligence detention facility in Trincomalee Naval Dockyard, and also possess names and photographs of torturers and guards who worked there. In Vavuniya, Joseph Camp was the base for military intelligence “white van” abduction teams and a site where multiple victims were tortured and sexually abused; we have multiple names and photographs of torturers who worked there, as well as other sites island wide,” the report says.

However the 41 sites we have identified represent only a fraction of the total number of torture sites in Sri Lanka because many witnesses have no idea where they were tortured, having been blindfolded when transferred there and out. (Colombo Gazette)