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High level US Democrats urge policy rethink on Sri Lanka amidst torture reports

 High Ranking US Democrats warned that the most recent reports of torture warrant further investigation into whether or not Sri Lanka is really making progress on reconciliation, accountability and justice.

Speaking to the Associated Press about its report on ongoing torture in Sri Lanka, a top ranking Democrat on the subcommittee that oversees US foreign aid, Sen Patrick Leahy said,

“These accounts of torture are horrific and contradict the Sri Lankan government’s professed commitment to reconciliation and justice. I will be looking for convincing evidence that torture has ended and those responsible are being punished.”

A second top ranking Democrat who sits on the US House  Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep Eliot Engel, said policy makers in Washington cannot ignore the torture reports.

In a letter to the Associated Press, the Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province and a former Supreme Court Judge, said calls for an internationalised investigation mechanism had been overlooked by the UN.

“Unfortunately this was overlooked. If the international mechanism was in place it would have acted as a deterrent to these military sadists.”

“The seriousness of these reports should make the United States wary of advancing our military relationship with Sri Lanka until full accounting has occurred.”

A former UN expert and Director of the South Africa based Foundation for Human Rights, Yasmin Sooka, called for member states at the UN to ask Sri Lanka tough questions at the upcoming Universal Periodic Review session of the Human Rights Council, and urged for the establishment of an independent body to investigate the allegations, similar to the processes in Guatamala.

“Many ethnic minority Tamils contend the government continues to target them as part of a larger plan to destroy their culture. Tamils speak a different language and are largely Hindu, unlike the country’s largest Buddhist Sinhalese majority. Despite Sri Lanka’s failure so far to investigate war crimes allegations stemming from its 26-year civil war against the Tamils and the latest accusations, the country’s international profile is on the rise. It still participates in U.N. peacekeeping missions and recently was asked to sit on a U.N. leadership committee trying to combat sexual abuse, despite its peacekeepers being implicated in the Haiti sex ring” writes the Associated Press.

See full report here.