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Emmerson slams Sri Lanka's counter-terrorism strategy and endemic torture use

The former UN Special Rapporteur for counter terrorism, Ben Emmerson, slammed the Sri Lankan government's counter-terrorism strategy in the wake of the Easter Sunday bombings. 

Speaking in the days after the attack, Emmerson said, "I think will inevitably start to be asked in the coming days, it is not as much of a surprise that there should be a sliding back towards armed violence of this nature in Sri Lanka, because the counter-terrorism apparatus that has been adopted by Sri Lanka is, it has to be said, not fit for purpose."

"The biggest problem they have in Sri Lanka is discrimination against national minorities, particularly the Tamil community, who are primarily Hindu, and the Muslim community. And the biggest social problem is disenfranchisement of these minorities and continuing persecution by public officials from the majority Sinhalese Buddhist community," he added in an interview. 

Highlighting the systemic use of torture, Emmerson added: 

"Given what we know about dysfunction in government in Sri Lanka ... one of the big issues in trying to get reform of the counter-terrorism strategy in Sri Lanka, and the one that I highlighted in my report last year, is that the reports of torture as the main means of investigating terrorism or allegations of terrorism are widespread and consistent and have been frequently documented, right up until the time of these attacks.

I, myself, saw people in custody that had their fingernails removed, who had been the victims of torture by electrocution, by beating and so on.

And I think when you have a community, which is made up of different ethnic groups — some of whom have been violently marginalized and suppressed, whose rights are not recognized, who are not protected and who are subjected to violence by the security services — against the background of a civil war where there has been effective impunity for war crimes against civilians by the authorities, you have a recipe for disaster."

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