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'Torture remains in frequent use' in Sri Lanka says UN Rapporteur

The UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E Mendez, noting that ‘torture continues to be used’ in Sri Lanka, stressed that a lack of structural reform posed a ‘real risk that the practice of torture will continue.”

Speaking at a press conference in Colombo, Mr Mendez said, that though the number of cases of torture were much less than during the height of the conflict, “torture remains in frequent use in Sri Lanka by CID and TID because of weak provisions in law.”

"Sadly the practice of interrogation under physical and mental coercion still exists and severe forms of torture, albeit probably in less frequent instances, continues to be used," he added.

Deploring the varied forms of torture, Mr Mendez said that there were "sexual violations including mutilation of the genital area and rubbing of chili paste or onions on the genital area," reports Agence France Presse.

Calling for urgent measures to be taken to prevent further torture and undermining of the transitional justice process, in is preliminary statement said,

“The Government should repeal the current PTA. In the context of any replacing legislation, if at all necessary, a robust and transparent national debate should take place that provides for full participation of civil society.”

“Sri Lanka needs urgent measures adopted in a comprehensive manner to ensure structural reform in the country’s key institutions. A piecemeal approach will not be compatible with the soon-to-be-launched transitional justice process and could undermine it before it really begins.”

“A transitional justice agenda needs to be trusted by victims and other stakeholders in order to be effective. Stopping torture altogether will not be enough, but it is a step that is absolutely indispensable. The necessary confidence in the transitional justice system will otherwise not be there.”

Highlighting that Sri Lanka was not able to provide him with details of how many people were still held in arbitrary detention under the Prevention for Terrorism Act (PTA), the UN expert added,

"The Government should repeal the current PTA. In the context of any replacing legislation, if at all necessary, a robust and transparent national debate should take place that provides for full participation of civil society."

Noting ongoing reports of white-van abductions and arbitrary detention of former cadres, Mr Mendez added,

“The very manner of the arrests of rehabilitated persons alleged as happening recently — by plainclothes agents, after days of being followed and after asking questions to family members, neighbours and associates — raise fears in the respective communities and only add to distrust about the motives for these re-arrests.”

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