Young Tamil activists have been abducted, tortured and raped because of their involvement in the search for the truth about the disappeared in Sri Lanka. At least fifteen such victims have been granted refugee status in the UK alone since 2015.
“More than a decade after the war end, young Tamils, many of whom have siblings who disappeared in the war, have paid a terrible price for asking for the truth,”said the executive director of the International Truth and Justice Project, Yasmin Sooka. “On the International Day of the Disappeared, we remind the Sri Lankan state that it cannot continue to persecute and send white vans after those who just want to know what happened to their loved ones.”
The refugees in the UK were not prominent human rights figures – they were young people who collected names or helped with protests or assisted the families of the disappeared to register complaints. None had any idea of the grave risks they were taking – one said he was even told that because he was a teenager the army wouldn’t be interested in him. In detention they experienced brutal torture at the hands of the security forces, such as whipping of the soles of the feet, blows to sexual organs, cigarette burns, branding with a heated metal rod, water torture, asphyxiation,suspension in stress positions, mock executions and death threats, as well as rape, including gang rape.
“In the process of demanding justice, which they are entitled to, these families have been victimized multiple times – the responsibility lies fully with a State that has no interest in recovering the truth,” said Ms Sooka.