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Victims recount torture at the hands of Sri Lankan forces

Victims of torture at the hands of Sri Lankan forces, as recently as this summer, have come forward to recount their ordeals. 

In anonymised interviews with Channel 4 news, the two men, with scars on their backs, described the shocking events:

"They used to beat me with a steel cable. It would peel away my skin. The pain would be simply unbearable. They would hang me upside down and dunk my head into water. They covered my head with a polythene bag soaked in petrol and tied it tightly around my neck. When I tried to breathe in it felt like I was breathing fire."

"They laid me upside down and dunked my head in a barrel of water. They lay me face down on a table and hammered me with wires, poles and rods. They burned me with cigarette butts. When I asked for water to drink, they gave me urine. I thought it would have been better if I had died at the end of the war, rather than survived to face this."

The victims' testimony comes on the eve of a review by the UN Committee Against Torture and as Tamil refugees are deported to Sri Lanka on the premise that their lives are no longer at risk.

 

Further torture victims have come forward and given evidence to the group Freedom from Torture. Excerpts of testimonies have been included in the group's report, 'Out of the Silence: New evidence of ongoing torture in Sri Lanka', published on Monday.

Excerpts reproduced below:

Saarheerthan:

“Many of us bear the marks of torture on our minds and bodies, but in Sri Lanka you can’t express that you’ve been tortured. If you show your scars to a doctor you risk them telling the authorities and you would likely be detained again.”

Lakshiyan:

 "The government tortured people who they could say to the rest of the world “these are LTTE terrorists”. Other countries wouldn’t help, as the LTTE is a banned organisation. It seemed to us like they managed to ban the whole Tamil community.”

Ganajan:

 "Earlier the government fought a weapons war against us with bombs; now they are making a silent war, kidnappings and ongoing detention.”

Rohan:

“After I arrived in Sri Lanka and tried to leave the airport, two men stopped me, asked for my passport and asked me to come with them. They showed me their IDs – two people from CID [Criminal Investigation Department]. They took me out of a different entrance and pulled me inside a van.

They started to ask questions about why I had come back to Sri Lanka – saying that I had escaped the first time but not this time. They tied my hands and legs and kicked me very badly.

“I was taken to a building. They asked questions like ‘why have you come back again?, ‘what did you do in the UK?’, ‘where is your brother?’ [an LTTE member]. I said I had no contact with him.

"They tortured me inside the room by removing my clothes and hitting me with burning irons. I was feeling a burning sensation all over my body. They kept me for two days and I found my body was all swollen. On the third day they put me inside the van. I thought they were going to shoot me.

"Later I realised that my family had given them some money and because of that I was released.”

 

A particularly harrowing account published in The Guardian, stated,

"They said they were going to put a mark on me. They pushed a pin into my penis. When they removed the pin, something was left inside me. I saw them do the same thing to three other people."

The victim subsequently underwent surgery at Ealing hospital in London, where a piece of plastic tubing was surgically removed.

It is believed foreign objects are inserted as a form of branding and identification of detainees by the Sri Lankan forces.

See related articles:

Swiss court slammed over refugee ruling (Nov 2011)

Amnesty sends report to UN Committee Against Torture (Oct 2011)

Bid to halt deportation fails, Tamils detained on arrival in Colombo (Sept 2011)

UK still ‘complicit’ in torture of Tamils (Sept 2011)