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Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01
The International Peace Bureau (Nobel Peace Prize, 1910) in a statement at the 55th Sessions of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights under the Agenda Item on Civil and Political rights, including the questions of (a) Torture and detention and (b) Disappearances and summary executions, declared in Geneva on 12 April 1999:
"It is sometimes assumed that in the South of the island Tamils enjoy their fundamental freedoms and rights. However this is far from the true picture. Arbitrary arrest and torture are routine. About 1650 Tamils are detained in highly restrictive states of captivity, according to a well-reputed parliamentarian....
According to one of our main sources for direct information regarding human rights violations, the Human Rights Action Committee Sri Lanka, the human rights situation is worsening. The following are just some of the cases documented.
On 26th October 98, 30 Tamils were arrested arbitrarily by the Passara Police in Badulla District. 15 were held in detention. Out of these Govindan Varatharajah, was a school student of 17 years. Another, Santhanam Anthonysamy was shot by the police when he went to the police station to lodge a complaint. A reporter who tried to cover the event, named Mohammed Samsudeen Naushad, working for a Tamil daily, Veerakesari, was arrested by the Lunagala Police in the same District, along with his Tamil photographer named Letchchamanan. On November 9th the former was released after appearing in court but soon was rearrested and remanded until 20th January, when, on payment of 100,000 rupees he was released on bail.
Between 5th and 15th June last year six Tamil youth from the tea plantations were arrested by Hatton police in the hill country, Central Sri Lanka and taken to the Kandy police station where they were tortured. Later they were taken to the Subversive Investigation Division Head quarters in Colombo 7 where further torture took place.
Suppu Udaya Kumar aged 27 was arrested on 12th June and taken to Kandy on 13th June where he was hung by his feet and forced to confess to alleged crimes. His genitals were crushed by slamming a drawer shut, causing injury. On 16th June he was transferred to the SID Head quarters in Colombo. His health condition was so critical he was seen by a judicial medical officer in Colombo, who requested an x-ray to be taken. This was not carried out. The following day, 17th, he was ordered to crouch under a chair and was beaten with batons.
After this the same genital torture took place as in Kandy. Due to his subsequent critical condition, he was taken to Colombo General Hospital on July 9th. The doctors requested he be brought for daily clinical treatment. This did not take place.
On 3rd September he was forced to sign a document in Sinhala which he cannot read. Because he refused to do so, he was again tortured and denied food. Eventually, unable to bear the pain any longer he signed the document which he could not understand. On 4th September he was taken to Bogambara prison in Kandy, where he was detained. As a result of torture he has continual migraine and vomiting.
This is one case out of numerous cases which are occurring daily in Sri Lanka. Most go unreported. The experience of Suppu Udaya Kumar is common to many Tamils living in the Southern part of the island. This starkly shows the institutionalised violence and inhumane and degrading treatment of Tamil persons.
Sometimes the torture results in death. An example is an incident on 25th August last year, when 13 Tamils were arrested by the Minuwangoda Police in the Western Province. After they were brought to the police station, and subsequent maltreatment one person, aged 49, named Raju Balakrishnan Dharmalingam vomited and later died. No investigation was carried out.
The UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary execution in his report after his recent visit to Sri Lanka, (E/CN.4/1998/68/Add.2), stated that the systematic absence of investigation into human rights violations facilitates impunity. He also highlighted the fact that the security forces comprised of members of the army and the police are 99% Sinhalese and do not speak Tamil, and that they treat the local Tamil population with suspicion. The forced signing of documents in Sinhala shows the racism and discrimination against Tamils.
The Rapporteur further states that torture is reportedly used by the armed forces with two principal aims: To obtain information and to intimidate the population. He says that it is common practice that members of the armed forces and security forces arrest persons without a warrant, subject them to interrogation and force them to sign statements of good treatment. The fact that detainees are kept incommunicado increases the risk of torture.
Blind Sinhala Chauvinism, inflamed and encouraged by the state institutions, has closed the ears and eyes, the minds and hearts, of the majority of the Sinhala people to the suffering of their Tamil brothers and sisters in their midst. The silence of the international community has been deafening. Documentation by human rights organisations, of gross violations of civil and political rights, including torture and detention has been extensive. What has been lacking is the political will to expose these violations. There appears to be an unwillingness to address these issues openly and specifically in international fora.
The Human Rights Commission as a body responsible for activating mechanisms to protect human rights cannot surely fail to take immediate steps to condemn Sri Lanka's human rights violations. We urge the Commission to appoint a country rapporteur to Sri Lanka to investigate and report on this serious situation.