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Sri Lanka's systematic rape of Tamil detainees - HRW

Sri Lankan security forces continue to systematically rape, sexually abuse and torture Tamils, almost 4 years since the end of the armed conflict, according to a report released by Human Rights Watch, earlier on Tuesday.

The 141-page report, entitled ‘“We Will Teach You a Lesson” - Sexual Violence against Tamils by Sri Lankan Security Forces’, inspected 75 cases of rape alleged to have occurred from 2006-2012 in both official and secret detention centres across Sri Lanka. The 75 cases were made up of 31 men, 41 women, and three boys aged under 18, all detained by Sri Lankan government of paramilitary forces and all subjected to torture and sexual abuse.

Harrowing accounts of rape and torture were recounted, with HRW stating that the report only accounts for “a tiny fraction of custodial rape”. Many of the cases followed similar patterns of detention, followed by torture and rape by security forces, whilst being interrogated about “LTTE activities”. Victims were also forced to sign confessions in Sinhalese, a language they did not understand, as well as being forced to identify and name other potential “suspects”. Some of the victims recounted that they signed ‘confessions’ and pointed out people as LTTE cadres, knowing that they were not, simply to put an end to the torture.

Tamils returning from abroad were also shown photographs of anti-government protests that took place in Paris and London, and forced to identify those in the images.

A former UN field officer told Human Rights Watch that,

“a large number of women fleeing from the conflict areas during the peak of fighting were sexually assaulted. The abuse was extensive, causing a large number of civilians to flee back to the theater of conflict to escape the abuse”.

HRW stated that the abuse appeared to be used “to instill terror in the broader Tamil population”, with the report noting,

"In all of the cases documented, the acts of rape and sexual violence were accompanied by other forms of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment by state security forces,"

"The continued large-scale deployment of the armed forces in former LTTE areas of northern Sri Lanka, coupled with increased surveillance of civil society groups, has stymied community responses to rights abuses including sexual violence."

“The cases suggest that the use of sexual violence was not just a local occurrence or actions of rogue security force personnel, but a widespread practice that was known or should have been known by higher-level officials”.

David Mepham, UK director of Human Rights Watch said,

"There is method in this. It is coercive. It is a deliberate policy. People throughout the security forces in Sri Lanka are involved. This is deeply entrenched and systematic."

The group’s Asia advocacy directory, John Sifton stated,

“Not only is rape systematic, but it’s indicative of a larger pattern of abuse… This is not reconciliation, but an effort to say, ‘You lost the war, now we’re in charge.’

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