( SL military; File photo)
COLOMBO (AFP) – A Sri Lankan court on Wednesday sentenced four government soldiers to 25 years in prison each for the gang rape of a 27-year-old Tamil mother of two in the island’s former war zone in 2010.
The High Court in Jaffna, the capital of the battle-scarred northern province, ordered the men each to pay half a million Sri Lankan rupees (S$5,030) to the victim as compensation.
“A lengthy jail term was given because these soldiers brought the military into disrepute,” a court official quoted judge Manickavasagar Illancheliyan as saying.
Each soldier was also ordered to pay 100,000 rupees to a female neighbour who was sexually harassed during the assault at the northern village of Visuvamadu in June 2010.
The attack occurred one year after government forces claimed victory over separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in the region and ended a 37-year-long guerrilla war, which killed at least 100,000 people.
Sri Lankan security forces have been accused by rights groups of routinely using sexual violence on Tamil detainees even after the end of the island’s drawn-out separatist war.
However, prosecutions of military personnel for sex crimes are rare.
Three of the soldiers were present in court to hear Wednesday’s verdict, while the fourth was tried in absentia.
In March last year, Sri Lanka’s military admitted that its troops had abused and tortured female army recruits – although the authorities had previously dismissed any allegations against their own men.
The latest court ruling comes after the UN urged Sri Lanka to allow internationally supervised investigations into alleged war crimes during the final stages of the island’s separatist war.
A study published last year by South African human rights lawyer, Yasmin Sooka, alleged that Sri Lankan troops carried out horrific sexual abuse of ethnic minority Tamils even after the war’s end.