UN visit ‘Gota’s Camp’ secret torture site in Sri Lanka navy base
By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
The government pledged yesterday that it would investigate the secret torture camp at the Naval Base in Trincomalee that was in operation during the last regime and also investigate complaints made by the UN Working Group to the government that families of missing persons were intimidated and harassed by CID officials after the UN officials had spoken to them.
The Foreign Ministry quoted the UN Working Group as having said that they saw secret detention chambers in the Trincomalee Naval Base which were maintained in the past, and not existing now, and urged the government to investigate. The government in return assured them it would do so.
Foreign Ministry’s Official Spokesperson Mahishini Colonne said ever since the new government assumed office it had responded positively by providing information whenever anyone made allegation about secret detention camps, and the government does not encourage the running of secret detention camps in the country.
She said, “We are willing to investigate what the UN Working Group saw in Trincomalee. They said they had visited the secret detention camp and the government provided complete access to wherever they wanted to go. Very few countries have done this. They were given access to meet all officers at the base. Even when any request came from them at short notice we provided assistance.”
The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances said after concluding their 10-day mission that they had also received detailed and credible allegations of intimidatory tactics, threats, sexual abuse and other forms of coercion or vigilance from some security and investigation officers, particularly from officials believed to be from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
They also said there are allegations according to which some of the persons with whom they met have been questioned in relation to the visit of the UN Working Group.
They added that such acts were absolutely unacceptable in a democratic society and urged the highest levels of government to take decisive action to stop such acts and instruct all public officers that these actions will not be tolerated and will be punished accordingly. The Working Group also called on the government to guarantee the safety of those with whom it met, and to protect them against any form of reprisals, threat or intimidation.
On the government’s response to the UN Working Group Ms.Colonne said, the Foreign Ministry had discussions with the UN Working Group on their arrival and before they left and the UN experts briefed the Ministry on events which transpired in the course of their stay here. “They shared some thoughts with us and we said the government is willing to investigate incidents of intimidation and harassment that had taken place. We will be considering what measures should be taken. She added, the issue itself is far too sensitive because victims and family members are involved. And the matter ‘should be handled with due sensitivity’.
On the Working Groups call to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) the Foreign Ministry spokesperson said, the Foreign Minister earlier had told the UNHRC in a statement that the government will repeal the PTA, but only after drafting new legislation to replace the PTA. “So we need to first enact that legislation before removing the PTA.