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Senior Sri Lankan navy commanders complicit in torture - ITJP

Senior Sri Lankan navy commanders are complicit in serious crimes including torture, disappearances and murders, revealed a new report by the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) on Wednesday.

The report, entitled “The Sri Lankan Navy: Turning a Collective Blind Eye”, compiled interviews from torture survivors as well as Sri Lankan naval officers, alongside court documents to explore details around a formerly secret Navy torture camp in Trincomalee.

“The Trincomalee 11 abduction case was supposed to be the great success story of Sri Lankan justice but tragically it’s become emblematic of failure,” said the ITJP’s Executive Director, Yasmin Sooka. “Many senior naval officers in the command structure in charge of naval intelligence or stationed at Trincomalee haven’t even been questioned, alleged perpetrators have been protected and promoted, and the living victims never even interviewed.”

The report, which examines the complicity of the Sri Lankan Navy in torture and enforced disappearances over many years, found that “these violations were part of a wider pattern of systemic torture that occurred over many years and in multiple sites, perpetrated by the Sri Lankan Navy and other units of the security forces”. 

“Naval officers we have spoken to, say everyone knew they should turn ‘a collective blind eye’ to what was going on,” added Sooka. “The whole Navy command structure appears to have been complicit in violations and is seriously tainted.”

Though the report only explored in-depth the Trincomalee site, it found that other similar secret sites existed on the island. For example, a location in Mannar was also used by the navy as a site of human rights violations, with bodies of detainees “allegedly disposed of at sea” as was the same in Trincomalee.

“It is time the Sri Lankan Navy is sanctioned until, at the very minimum, the institution cooperates fully with the police investigation and stops rewarding the suspects in this case,” continued Sooka. “International partners are now on notice and can no longer turn a blind eye to the Sri Lankan Navy’s criminality”.

The report goes on to conclude:

“The entire Sri Lankan Navy should be sanctioned by the international community with the suspension of international assistance and cooperation until, at the very minimum, the navy cooperates fully with an independent police investigation and stops rewarding the suspects in this emblematic case by promoting them or making it possible for them not to face the full might of the law.”

"International partners are now on notice and can no longer turn a blind eye to the Sri Lankan Navy’s criminality either.”

See the full text of the report here.