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PTA must be repealed to address Sri Lanka's culture of torture - Special Rapporteur report

Sri Lanka continues to operate under a culture of torture and should immediately repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture has said.

The report of the Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez on his mission to Sri Lanka in April-May 2016 documents that torture is still widespread in the early stages of detention, particularly to extract confessions out of detainees, and that the judiciary fails to scrutinise the practices.

“The Special Rapporteur received credible testimonies that torture and ill-treatment are inflicted on almost all suspects held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act during detention by the Criminal Investigations Department and the Terrorism Investigation Division, as well as sometimes by the armed forces,” the report said.

Referencing the treatment of former LTTE cadres, the report states:

“The Special Rapporteur is concerned that rehabilitated persons continue to be kept under surveillance by government agents years after their release, and are frequently harassed and threatened. They are often still forced to report to a police station or military post at regular intervals, where they are frequently threatened and ill-treated and, in some instances, arbitrarily detained and subjected to torture, including sexual torture. Harassment sometimes extends to civil society organizations that provide counselling and other services to rehabilitated persons.”

“Owing to the heavy militarization that still exists in the North and East of the country, surveillance continues to be used as a tool of control and intimidation. In addition to rehabilitated persons, many former detainees under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and their families, anyone deemed to have had any link to LTTE during the conflict and political and human rights activists remain subject to extensive surveillance and intimidation by the military, intelligence and police forces.”

The Special Rapporteur’s report stresses that the Prevention of Terrorism Act should be immediately repealed, and also recommends foreign governments refrain from deporting Tamil asylum seekers:

“Ensure that the principle of non-refoulement is upheld by not returning to Sri Lanka persons, in particular Tamils, who may be at risk of torture or ill- treatment, in accordance with article 3 of the Convention against Torture.”

Read the Special Rapporteur’s full report here.

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