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Sri Lankan doctors "complicit in torture"

The British Medical Journal has published a report which has detailed how doctors in five countries, including Sri Lanka, have been complicit in torture.

The report, compiled by global health charity Medact, examined case studies in the UK, US, Israel, Italy and Sri Lanka.

In Sri Lanka they found cases where doctors not only failed to report torture, but actively refused to treat or even examine victims of torture.

Marion Birch, director of Medact said,

"The climate of impunity that may have been created, lack of support that may be given, really need to be discussed."

The report stated that following a 2007 visit to Sri Lanka by UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, he concluded that torture was “widely practiced” and “this practice is prone to become routine in the context of counter-terrorism operations, in particular by the TID [Terrorist Investigation Department]”.

Looking at 130 Sri Lankan cases collected from the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture in the UK MFCVT in 2007, they stated 24 women and 22 men also reported being raped.

Sexual abuse by the Sri Lankan armed forces has been well documented, as has rape under custody of Sri Lankan police.

The report also cited work looking at torture in Sri Lanka between 1998 and 2001, which found that there were at least 68 different methods of torture including, “assault with blunt and sharp weapons, burns with lighted cigarettes, ‘wet submarino’ (immersing the victim’s head in a container full of water until the person nearly drowned), ‘dry submarino’ (putting the victim’s head inside a plastic bag until the person nearly suffocated), kicking, ‘hanging’ and electrocution.”

They also identified methods known as a “Palestinian hanging” (hanging the victim from the wrists) and “falanga” (beating the soles of the feet).

The report concluded that action in Sri Lanka would be “challenging partly because of the level of abuse of human rights in general” and called on the Sri Lanka Medical Association to join the World Medical Association and fight torture

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