Nov 02, 2016

Sri Lanka confirms existence of illegal torture cells

In a damning report to the UN, Sri Lanka's top human rights body has confirmed that the country's police force maintain secret detention centers as exposed by local and international rights activists.

The much feared Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) runs these illegal centers, according to the report submitted to the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) by the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission (SLHRC).

Several human rights bodies have exposed that the Sri Lankan state maintains secret detention centers, a claim so far denied by the government.

Only three 'gazetted'

SLHRC has found evidence about the existence of such officially undocumented torture cells around the island in addition to 'gazetted' detention centers in Colombo, downsouth Boosa and the Tamil town of Vavunia.

"Upon inquiry it was revealed the places at which persons were held for at least twelve hours were offices of the TID but not gazetted detention centers. The TID has only three gazetted places of detention - Boosa, TID Vavuniya and TID Colombo."

JDS report to UNCAT

The SLHRC has recognized 'torture to be of routine nature that is practiced all over the country' an observation endorsed by JDS in its report to UNCAT.

JDS has provided substantial evidence that highlights the continuation of the repressive torture mechanism under the present Sri Lanka government.

Perpetrators who oversaw torture during the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime continue to hold on to positions of power with impunity following the regime change in January 2015, it has told the UN.

Over 600 cases

SLHRC in its report to UNCAT has documented over 600 complaints of torture by state security received by them since 2015.

While 420 cases of torture has been recorded in 2015, SLHRC has received 208 complaints in the first eight months of 2016.

The report also has also highlights the detention of people for years without access to justice held under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

"Based on the statistics at the disposal of the Commission obtained from the Department of Prisons, as at May 2016, of the one hundred and eleven (111) persons who still remain in remand custody under the PTA, twenty-nine have not been indicted. It should be noted this does not take into account those arrested and remanded thereafter when there were a spate of arrests under the PTA. The longest period a person has been on remand without indictment being filed is fifteen years. The longest period a trial has been on-going is since 2002, i.e. fourteen years. Forty-one persons are appealing their sentences under the PTA with the longest period the person has been awaiting a decision being fourteen years."

The following organisations have already submitted their reports on torture in Sri Lanka to UNCAT, which is expected to discuss them at the review of the fifth periodic report of Sri Lanka in mid November.

(by Kasun Yapa Karunaratne –