This briefing is submitted to the Committee against Torture (hereafter the Committee) prior to its consideration of Sri Lanka s combined third and fourth periodic reports on its implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (hereafter the Convention). It details Amnesty International’s concern about a persistent pattern of torture and other ill treatment of detainees, including individuals detained under the Emergency Regulations or the Prevention of Terrorism Act
on suspicion of links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), as well as individuals arrested in the course of civil policing — criminal suspects as well as those wrongfully arrested at the behest of third parties engaged in personal disputes.
The briefing evaluates Sri Lanka’s compliance with specific Convention articles as they relate to the ongoing situation in the country, including: (i) enforcement of laws that criminalize torture (articles 1 and 4); (ii) the impact of Sri Lanka’s emergency and anti-terrorism legislation (articles 2, 4 and 5); (iii) the effectiveness of legal and procedural safeguards against torture (articles 11 and16); and (iv) impunity and redress for victims of torture (article 12 and 13).
Detainees are often held arbitrarily for prolonged periods (sometimes years) without charge. Many are arrested and detained on suspicion of links to the LTTE pending investigation and interrogation by Sri Lanka’s intelligence and security forces, or for what the Sri Lankan authorities have termed rehabilitation.
People alleged to be involved with the LTTE are rarely brought to trial. Most of these detainees are eventually released for lack of evidence. Amnesty International is concerned at the routine use by Sri Lankan authorities of prolonged administrative detention to circumvent ordinary procedures.
According to international law administrative detention can be used only in the most exceptional cases, as a last resort for preventing danger that cannot be thwarted by less harmful means.
Some detainees report being tortured and beaten by military personnel and paramilitary cadres working with government forces, such as the army and navy; by police, by inmates and by prison guards.
Enforced disappearances continue to be reported and bodies of victims of extrajudicial killings often show evidence of torture.
Women’s human rights defenders have repeatedly expressed concern to Amnesty International that gender based violence including violence amounting to torture is not taken seriously by Sri Lankan authorities; they note that sexual violence is highly underreported and where it is reported, poorly investigated.
Most perpetrators of human rights violations, including of torture, enjoy impunity. There has been a consistent failure of the authorities to ensure that allegations of torture and other serious violations of human rights are investigated and that those responsible are brought to justice.
This briefing covers the period since Sri Lanka’s last report was considered by the Committee in November 2005, with an emphasis on the more recent period of 2010 – 2011. It evaluates laws and practices in Sri Lanka which lead to or amount to human rights violations and contravene Sri Lanka’s obligations under the Convention. It provides case examples, which illustrate that the practice of torture, including torture of persons arrested on suspicion of their links to the LTTE, is ongoing.