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 .”

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...

Sri Lanka orders news websites to register

The Sri Lankan Government has urged all news websites to register with the media ministry, in a move widely seen as an attempt to further restrict the freedom of the press on the island. "This ministry believes that those who are operating and maintaining these clandestine websites have been doing so to discredit the government, the head of state," the ministry said in a statement. "Such slanderous publications should not only be discouraged but also acts of this nature would have to be effectively prevented in the interest of the general public." Last month, anti-government website Lanka-e-...

Sri Lanka gives up on Army deserters

Colombo has announced that it will de-list over 60,000 Army deserters, signalled that they will no longer pursue trying to prosecute them. The 60,000 deserters who have left the Army since 1982, will be placed into four categories and “de-listed after due legal progress,” according to Brigadier N Hapuarachchi. Several “last chance” attempts at amnesties for soldiers who have fled have proved highly unsuccessful, with the most recent amnesty last year only leading to 2,000 surrendering of an estimated 50,000 wanted. Sri Lankan Army deserters have also been reported to take part in serious...

US has ‘high expectations’ for LLRC

The United States has said that they have ‘high expectations’ for the forthcoming LLRC report, which is due to be handed over to Sri Lankan President mahinda Rajapakse later this week. Speaking in a daily press briefing , State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland commented on the TNA’s visit to Washington last week where they met with Under Secretary of State Sherman saying, “Under Secretary Sherman’s main point was that we have high expectations for the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission report which is due later in the month – not only that the report will be of highest...

Army to build a 5-star hotel

The Sri Lankan Army is to take part in construction work, building a 5-star hotel in Colombo according to reports . Military spokesman Brigadier Nihal Hapuarachchi said that suitable land was now being sought for the intended construction and said that there were discussions regarding a proposal to set up a private construction company within the Army. The announcement comes days after Sri Lanka declared that the Army will be maintaining the three biggest cricket stadiums on the island. See our earlier post: ‘Militarising Cricket’ (Nov 2011) The Sri Lankan Air Force already has an expanding...

Sri Lankan Navy pelts Tamil fishermen with stones

Six Tamil Nadu fishermen were injured when Sri Lankan navy personnel pelted the fishing boats with stones. Upto ten boats were damaged, and fishing nets cut by the navy during the attack. The Tamil Nadu Fisheries department has said one of the fishermen suffered multiple injuries from a broken window glass pane, caused by the stoning. The fishermen came under attack near the Katchatheevu islet on Sunday. The attack come less than just over a week before Sri Lanka is due to host a maritime conference - Galle Dialogue .The delegates will be welcomed by Vice Admiral DWAS Dissanayake - Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy. Presentations include a paper by a member of the Indian Navy on "Indian Navy’s Perspective on Regional Maritime Cooperation; The Way – Ahead", and a paper by Rear Admiral JSK Colombage, the Commander Eastern Naval Area, Sri Lanka Navy on "Cross Border Fishing; Impacts and Challenges".

Sri Lanka looks to appease China as hotel deal collapses

A Chinese state-owned defence company has been awarded a contract to construct a university department on Colombo, days after a major hotel deal was cancelled by the Sri Lankan government. The deal to construct a hotel on the illustrious Galle Face Green with the Chinese defence contractor China Aviation Technology Import-Export Corporation (CATIC), was worth $500 million and was hailed as one of the island’s single biggest foreign investments. See our earlier post: ‘ Sri Lanka’s defence ministry and tourism investment ’ (June 2011) The Sri Lankan Government, anxious to placate the Chinese investors, were reportedly looking for alternate land and have now offered the university project worth $89.6 million. The contract was cancelled after the Sri Lankan government came under intense scrutiny from opposition parties over the sale, who claimed the deal was not done transparently. They also questioned why the “best property in Sri Lanka” was being sold to an arms company that owns only a few hotels in China and not a well reputed international chain, reportedly with not a single cent of tax being charged. CATIC does however, export military aeroplanes to Sri Lanka. The announcement comes as Sri Lanka faces increased pressure from China for loan repayments, leading to Sri Lanka trying to swap some of its debt for equity with Chinese firms, starting with the Norochcholai power plant in the North-West.

Government not serious about political settlement- TNA

The TNA have condemned the Sri Lankan government's failure to investigate war crimes and the forestalling of bilateral discussions to address the Tamil peoples leigtimate grievances. Citing a lack of political will, the main Tamil party urged the government to respond to the TNA's publicly stated basic requirements for future talks . Speaking to the Associated Press, TNA's Sumanthiran said , "The message that we have given is that we are disappointed and disillusioned at the Sri Lankan government's failure to show the political will [in sharing political power and postwar rehabilitation ]" "...

Expropriation bill claims first victim

Supporters of President Rajapakse’s government have stormed a private sugar company owned by an opposition MP. Sevanagala Sugar Industries was one of the 36 private companies ear-marked for nationalisation by the government for under-performing, a move made possible by the controversial expropriation bill. Meanwhile the Bar Association of Sri Lanka has demanded the withdrawal of the bill. "We appeal to the president, the government and all promoters of the bill to take steps to ensure that the bill is withdrawn and not passed without opportunity of further careful scrutiny...," it said in a...

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