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Ongoing denial of crimes by Sri Lankan government says ITJP

The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) this month highlighted the widespread denial by the Sri Lankan government of the ongoing torture and rape of Tamils committed by Sri Lankan security forces. 

In an interview with Ceylon Today following a report published by Associated Press highlighting the ongoing crimes committed under the present government, ITJP said,

"What we witness is the ongoing denial of these crimes not only by the Sri Lankan government but also some Sri Lankans, who refuse to admit that these crimes continue to be perpetrated on this scale. It is easier to blame it on the war, or on the Rajapaksa regime, but much harder to admit it is still endemic and is structural."

"Unless there is an acknowledgement that this is a structural problem that has become entrenched in the security forces, it will continue," ITJP added. 

Asked by Ceylon Today 'how will you authenticate these claims to be genuine and also that it occurred from 2015-17?', ITJP's executive director replied: 

"At least 12 of the 71 men and women tortured between 2015-17 whom the ITJP has interviewed, tried to kill themselves once they escaped Sri Lanka arriving in the UK – that’s hardly the action of an economic migrant who just wanted a better life. One woman tried twice to kill herself despite having a husband and child and a long term student visa. These are desperate people being rushed to hospital in ambulances to have their stomachs pumped – not crafty cheats who want to exploit the refugee system."

"The ITJP’s team of investigators are a diverse group, with enormous experience documenting and investigating torture and sexual violence for criminal accountability – having worked for the ICTY, ICTR, the ICC, the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative in the UK, Truth Commissions and Courts in South Africa and Sierra Leone, as well SLMM, OHCHR, OISL and IIGEP. ITJP investigators spend many days with a witness recording testimony regarding crimes about which they have never spoken in detail because of fear and stigma. The ITJP has a database of 290 statements on Sri Lanka, against which to cross check and triangulate data. 51 of the 71 case files documenting violations
under the period of the Sirisena Government are supported by expert medico legal reports done by forensic experts who are required to give independent opinions to the UK asylum tribunals. The remaining twenty cases don’t have these reports yet, because they only just arrived in the UK and are on a waiting list to be examined. These cases have been authenticated by legal and medical experts as well as the Associated Press journalist who interviewed the ITJP victims. Since the Associated Press report was published, several doctors have written to U.N. Human Rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein and called for an independent investigation." As forensic experts, we have collectively seen many hundreds of Sri Lankans who have fled their country following torture over the years," the physicians' letter said. "We continue to receive a worrying number of cases from Sri Lanka despite the change of government."

Asked about the government's response to the AP report and pledge to investigate any crimes of torture, Ms Sooka replied: 

"I find it difficult to believe that anyone really believes the government any more when it says that it condemns torture. I would like to see these words matched by real action. Has anyone been charged and prosecuted for the crime of torture or sexual violence in Sri Lanka since this government came to power? If President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe were genuine about investigating torture they would not have brought out of retirement the former DIG of the “fourth floor”, Sisira Mendis. They would not have had the gall to send him as part of the government delegation to Geneva for the meeting of the Committee Against Torture. They would not have renewed his contract after all the controversy around his visit. This man is named in the OISL report, which should merit an indictment. 

If the government was genuinely committed to accountability, Jagath Jayasuriya should be indicted for the crimes perpetrated during the final phase of the conflict as well as for torture and sexual violence during his tenure at Joseph camp. The recent allegations made by Field Marshal Fonseka, as well as the evidence in the OISL report, warrant this."

See full interview here