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UK Charity hands torture report to UN

Freedom from Torture, a charity working with victims of torture, has handed a report on Sri Lanka to the UN on the eve of a meeting of its Committee against torture.

The report reveals horrific details of continuing torture, mainly of Tamils, by the Sri Lankan state. Most of the torture was meted out to individuals who were perceived to have links to the LTTE.

Doctors at the organisation reviewed 35 cases out of over 300 cases which had been referred to the charity’s clinics over the past two years.

The vast majority of cases were for medico-legal reports (MLR), documents used to prove torture in asylum cases.

The submission focuses exclusively on cases of torture committed after 2009, highlighting the fact that torture is still widespread and ongoing in 2011.

"Torture perpetrated by state actors within both the military and police has continued in Sri Lanka after the conflict ended in May 2009 and is still occurring in 2011," it says.

"These cases demonstrate the widespread and continuing use of a large number of unofficial detention facilities in which many of the individuals … were held."

The evidence in the report suggests that torture was committed with impunity, as most victims were left with heavy scarring and burns, suggesting the perpetrators were not concerned with repercussions.

"As well as recording serious psychological impact in virtually all of the individuals whose cases are sampled in this report, the forensic documentation also reveals high levels of visible scarring which strongly suggests a deliberate policy of 'branding' and an environment where perpetrators act with impunity."

Of the 35 cases examined, 33 were ethnic Tamils.

Significantly, 14 of those individuals travelled abroad before they were tortured, including several cases of failed asylum seekers, who were deported back to Sri Lanka from European countries, including the UK.

The report goes on the locations of the torture camps and horrific details about the acts committed on the individuals.

Torture methods range from burning parts of the body with heated metal rods to shocking sexual abuse, such as ‘burning of genitals with caustic substances’ and rape.

The report recommends an urgent investigation by the Committee against Torture into whether torture is being systematically practiced against Tamils in Sri Lanka and that the UK ceases all deportations of individuals at risk of torture to Sri Lanka.

It also calls on the UN and the international community to launch an investigation into allegations of human rights violations committed during 2009, ‘as recommended by the UN Panel of Experts Report (Recommendation 1), and in light of the well-known defects of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)’.

The UN has received submissions from various human rights organisations for its meeting, including Amnesty International, Redress and the Asian Human Rights Commission.