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UK Shadow Minister raises concerns over Sri Lanka’s torture of Tamils

UK Shadow Minister for International Trade, Gareth Thomas raises concerns over the Home Office’s Country Policy and Information Note (CPIN) on Sri Lanka and its failure to recognise continued torture after 2015.

Drawing on the Freedom from Torture report, he highlights the cases of 33 people tortured between 2015 and 2018, verified by independent and specialist doctors. Individuals were targeted for real or perceived ties with the LTTE. This follows over 300 cases of torture by the state between 2009 and 2015.  The report goes on to state that “people of Tamil ethnicity were overwhelmingly the victims in all of these instances”.

According to the International Truth and Justice Project, there have been 178 documented credible cases of torture from 2015-2018, excluding 22 individuals abroad who reported torture following the UN special investigation. Since Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to power in late 2019, at least 5 cases have been documented abroad of abduction, torture and sexual violence of Tamils. The ITJP notes, "this likely represents the tip of the iceberg".

The ITJP details that:

In one case, the independent medico-legal report corroborates recent torture and rape and maps 59 cigarette burns on the victim’s body including her upper thighs and genital area. The victim attempted suicide three times in Sri Lanka and now in the UK has to be locked in her room at night to prevent her from accessing kitchen knives or tablets to try again.

Freedom from Torture highlights the failure of the Home Office’s CPIN to take into account evidence of torture post-2015 and instead relying on its fact-finding mission in October 2019. Freedom from Torture further maintains that the CPIN “fails to acknowledge the implications of the recent change in government for the advancement of human rights in the country, and, in particular, for Tamils”. Whilst published 6 months after the appointment of Gotabaya to the Presidency, it “does not contain a full picture of the current situation in the country”.

This report follows the deportation of over 30 Tamil asylum seekers in Germany despite concerns over torture.

Responding to the Shadow Minister, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Kevin Foster, stated:

All asylum and human rights claims from Sri Lankan nationals are carefully considered on their individual merits in accordance with our international obligations.

Each individual assessment is made against the background of the latest available country of origin information and any relevant case law.

The key case law for Sri Lanka is GJ & Others (post –civil war: returnees Sri Lanka CG [2013] UKUT 00319 (IAC) (5 July 2013) (heard on 5-8 and 11-12 February 2013, 15 March 2013 and 19 April 2013), and our CPIN is focused around this. This acknowledges there are factors to be considered when deciding a case.

We do not consider pieces of information in isolation. We review a range of evidence to ensure balance and a complete picture is considered.

Read the full statements here.

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