As Foreign Minister Hugo Swire prepares 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 to the Sri Lankan military unless the government offers a clear and effective plan to tackle endemic torture in the security sector.
The charity has issued the call following 27 cases of torture in 2015 uncovered by Freedom from Torture and the International Truth and Justice Project Sri Lanka. It is also warning against premature optimism about the human rights situation on the ground resulting in Home Office removal of asylum-seekers to Sri Lanka.
Sonya Sceats, Freedom from Torture’s Director of Policy and Advocacy, said:
“Instead of the culture of torture ending with Sirisena’s election, it has cast a shadow over his first year of office. Evidence collected by our clinicians shows that sexual violence, burning and beating are still used by the army and intelligence agencies as preferred tools of interrogation.
“There is a very real risk that part of the £6.6 million of UK tax payers’ aid promised to Sri Lanka will be used by those who commit torture. Our Foreign Minister should demand that President Sirisena come up with a credible plan for preventing torture urgently. Reducing the over-bloated military is welcome but it will not stop abuse by the rump that remains.
“The green shoots of democratic renewal we have seen under President Sirisena should not be read as a green light for relaxing UK asylum policy. Torture is still happening and since the war ended many Tamils with real or perceived links to the LTTE, even at very low levels, have been hunted down after returning from the UK.”