Sri Lanka still torturing suspects after end of war: UN

(AFP) – A UN official slammed Sri Lanka’s criminal justice system on Saturday, accusing the police of sexually abusing suspects and still using torture, seven years after the end of its ethnic war.

United Nations Human Rights Expert Juan E. Mendez told reporters in Colombo that he had found credible evidence of detainees being tortured and disappearing since the end of the war in May 2009.

Mendez, a special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, said he heard that between 16,000 and 22,000 people had gone missing during the conflict and its immediate aftermath.

He described the disappearances as the "torture of the most horrifying kind".

"The current legal framework and the lack of reform within the structures of the armed forces, police, attorney-general’s office and judiciary perpetuate the real risk that the practice of torture will continue," he warned.

Suspects have been beaten with sticks or wires on the soles of their feet, suspended for hours while handcuffed, asphyxiated using plastic bags drenched in kerosene and hung upside down, he said.

In some cases, victims had chili powder thrown on their face and eyes, and there were "sexual violations, including mutilation of the genital area and rubbing of chili paste or onions on the genital area".

Some people were tortured for days or even weeks, he said after visiting Sri Lankan prisons and meeting with some survivors during a nine-day visit to the island.

Still, he expressed hope that the government of President Maithripala Sirisena will deliver on promises of accountability for war crimes and put an end to rights abuses.

Sirisena’s administration, which took power in January last year, has promised to investigate rights abuses following allegations that up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed by government forces in 2009 as they crushed rebel forces.





UN Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who visited Sri Lanka in February, asked the government to "confront and defeat the demons of its past".

Zeid urged Colombo to address war crimes allegedly committed during the 37-year ethnic conflict that ended in May 2009 when the Tamil rebel leadership was wiped out.

In all, some 100,000 people were killed between 1972 and 2009.

Zeid is due to deliver two assessments on Sri Lanka’s human rights situation to the UN Human Rights Council in June and March 2017. (COLOMBO, May 7, 2016 )

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