Hugo Swire must insist that that the Sri Lanka government has a clear plan to end torture

( January 12, 2016, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) As Foreign Minister Hugo Swireprepares to visit Sri Lanka this week, the human rights charity Freedom from Torture is calling on him to make sure that UK taxpayers’ money is not handed over unless President Sirisena offers a clear plan to tackle endemic torture by the country’s military and security forces.

The charity has issued the call following fresh cases of torture in 2015 uncovered by Freedom from Torture and the International Trust and Justice Project. It is also warning against any optimism towards President Sirisena’s regime resulting in Home Office removal of asylum-seekers to Sri Lanka.

Sonya Sceats, Director of Policy and Advocacy, Freedom from Torture, said:

“Far from Sirisena’s election ending the culture of torture, it has cast a shadow over his first year of office. Evidence collected by our doctors shows that burning, beating and rape remain the military and intelligence forces’ preferred tools of interrogation.

“There is therefore a very real risk that some of the UK tax payers’ £6.6 million aid promised to Sri Lanka will be used by those who commit torture. The Foreign Minister should demand that President Sirisena come up with a clear and concrete plan for preventing torture urgently. Carrying out some job training or sacking a few individuals will not suffice because the system is rotten to the core.

“The green shoots of democratic renewal we have seen under President Sirisena should not be read as a green light for changing UK asylum policy. Year after year Sri Lanka is our top country of origin for torture survivor referrals, and the President has an Herculean task on his hands to tackle the entrenched torture that causes them to flee.”