The Sri Lankan government has been condemned by all seventeen distinguished international judges over a case where a former Tamil Tiger who left that organisation, was detained, and tortured for a month by police before escaping to Switzerland. His torture, confirmed by Swiss doctors, included severe beatings with cricket bats, electric shock, and rape. The government of Sri Lanka denied the claims, but its defence was rejected. It also pretended that the claimant could have effective remedies in Sri Lanka, but these remedies were proved to be ineffective.
The UN tribunal has ordered Sri Lanka to investigate independently and thoroughly the police who were responsible for the brutality, and to ensure that they are prosecuted and punished. It must pay adequate compensation to the victim. It must change its laws to make sure that this kind of conduct cannot be repeated.
The victim was represented by Geoffrey Robertson AO KC. Mr Robertson commented “This is an especially important judgment about the legal obligation, not only on Sri Lanka but on the government of other countries, to protect all persons detained in police cells from beatings and other forms of torture and ill treatment. The Authorities have been ordered to punish the police who were responsible and to report in 6 months how they have changed their laws to provide better protection for prisoners. deaths and torture in police custody, especially as here when racial and political hostility contributed to police brutality, must never be overlooked.”
Excerpts from a press release by TGTE.
Excerpts from the ruling:
The Committee takes note of the author’s allegations that he was subjected to severe torture, rape, ill-treatment and threats by State agents while in detention. The Committee notes his claims, uncontested by the State party, that he was detained from 6 January to 3 April 2009 and repeatedly subjected to torture and ill-treatment during this time, including repeated beatings, had pins inserted through his nipples, had a nylon rope tied around his toes and pulled upside down, had his head submerged under water, had a sharp object inserted into his anus, was forced into a freezer room, was subjected to electric shocks, and subjected to a metal rod inserted into his penis. It notes that the author was only released after having paid a bribe for his release.
It notes the author’s claim that as a result of the injuries sustained during the detention, he was treated at a military hospital for three to four days, and that he required 18 stiches to his intestines. The Committee further notes that according to medical reports submitted by the author regarding his treatment in Switzerland, he has been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, erectile dysfunction and incontinence as a result of the torture and rape he endured while in detention. The Committee also notes the author’s claim that the lack of an effective remedy and investigation into his claims by a competent and independent judicial body amounts to a violation of his rights under article 7, read in conjunction with article 2 (3) of the Covenant.
8.3 The Committee recalls that it is implicit in article 4 (2) of the Optional Protocol that the State party has the duty to investigate in good faith all allegations of violations of the Covenant made against it and its representatives and to provide the Committee with the information available to it. In cases where the allegations are corroborated by credible evidence submitted by the author and where further clarification depends on information that is solely in the hands of the State party, the Committee may consider the author’s allegations as substantiated in the absence of satisfactory evidence or explanations to the contrary by the State party.
In the present case, the Committee notes that the State party has not submitted any observations on the merits of the present communication nor refuted any of the author’s claims.
In the absence of a response from the State party in that regard, the Committee gives due weight to the author’s claims and finds that the facts described according to which the author was subjected to severe torture, rape and ill-treatment reveal a violation of his rights under article 7, read alone and in conjunction with article 2 (3) of the Covenant.
9. The Committee, acting under article 5 (4) of the Optional Protocol, is of the view that the facts before it disclose a violation by the State party of the author’s rights under article 7, read alone and in conjunction with article 2 (3) of the Covenant.
10. Pursuant to article 2 (3) (a) of the Covenant, the State party is under an obligation to provide the author with an effective remedy. This requires it to make full reparation to individuals whose Covenant rights have been violated. Accordingly, the State party is obligated, inter alia, to take appropriate steps to: (a) conduct a thorough, impartial, independent and effective investigation into the facts submitted by the author; (b) prosecute, try and punish those responsible for the author’s torture, and make the results of such measures public; and (c) provide adequate compensation and appropriate measures of satisfaction to the author for the violations suffered. The State party is also under an obligation to take steps to prevent similar violations in the future. In that connection, the Committee notes that it has dealt with similar cases concerning the State party in a number of earlier communications and thus the State party should amend the legislation and statutes of limitations in accordance with international standards and by prescribing sanctions and remedies for the offence of torture commensurate with the gravity of such crimes and consistent with its obligations under article 2 (2) of the Covenant.
11. Bearing in mind that, by becoming a party to the Optional Protocol, the State party has recognized the competence of the Committee to determine whether there has been a violation of the Covenant and that, pursuant to article 2 of the Covenant, the State party has undertaken to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the Covenant and to provide an effective and enforceable remedy when it has been determined that a violation has occurred, the Committee wishes to receive from the State party, within 180 days, information about the measures taken to give effect to the Committee’s Views. The State party is also requested to publish the present Views and to have them widely disseminated in the official languages of the State party.