UN Special Rapporteur on Torture must Visit Sri Lanka to Document On Going Acts of Torture

By

Kartiga Thavaraj

Statement made by Ms. Kartiga Thavaraj at the UN Human Rights Council on March 11th 2013 on behalf of Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation in Geneva)

Thank you Mr. President.

Ms. Kartiga Thavaraj at UNHRC in Geneva, on Mar 11, 2013

Pasumai Thaayagam welcomes the report of Mr. Juan Mendez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The act of torture represents one of the gravest forms of abuse of power by a state. In his latest report, Mr. Mendez affirms the state’s imperative role in ensuring freedom from torture, and particularly stresses that special protection be afforded to minorities and marginalized groups. A state’s obligation is not simply to refrain from inflicting torture, but to prohibit, prevent and redress torture within its borders and by its agents.

Mr. President, many of Mr. Mendez’s observations and recommendations apply to countries outside this report. Similar to his observations on Western Sahara, the state of Sri Lanka exhibits a pattern of torture and ill-treatment by police officers and armed forces. Human Rights Watch and Freedom from Torture have compiled medical evidence of over 55 cases since the end of the armed conflict detailing the use of torture by Sri Lankan police and military personnel, overwhelmingly against Tamils. Evidence of the prevalence of torture in Sri Lanka has also been corroborated by the testimony of a former Sri Lankan soldier, who served in the army for over fifteen years, and testified at his own refugee hearing in Canada that the military tortured civilians.

Despite recommendations by several states during its Universal Periodic Review in November, Sri Lanka has yet to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. To echo Mr. Mendez’s recommendation to the government of Tajikistan, it is important for the government of Sri Lanka to expedite a prompt, impartial and thorough investigation into all allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. However, the state’s failure in this regard, reflects the culture of impunity institutionally entrenched in Sri Lanka.

The Government of Sri Lanka’s behavior demonstrates the need for the Council to convene an independent international mechanism to investigate Sri Lanka’s alleged violations of international law, as recommended by the High Commissioner. Furthermore, we urge the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture to request a visit to Sri Lanka, so that the ongoing crimes may be documented.

Thank you Mr. President.