Rape and other forms of sexual violence have been used by the Sri Lankan security forces to torture suspected members or supporters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a report by Human Rights Watch has revealed.
While the 140-page report titled “We Will Teach You a Lesson — Sexual violence against Tamils by Sri Lankan security forces” was released by HRW in London on Tuesday, a media briefing was held here a day earlier.
In the 75 cases – 31 of men, 41 of women and three of boys under 18 —documented in the report, interviewees have reported being raped on multiple days, often by several people with the Sri Lankan army, police and pro-government paramilitary groups frequently participating. The report compiles abuses that occurred between 2006 and 2012 in both official and secret detention centres throughout Sri Lanka.
“The report compiles testimonies of Tamils who are asylum seekers. Many of them managed to get out of Sri Lanka after bribing their way out of detention,” said HRW’s South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly. The report states that ‘detainees were normally not released but rather allowed to “escape” after a relative paid a bribe.’
Most of the rape victims spoke to HRW outside of Sri Lanka and corroborated their accounts with medical and legal reports, she said, adding the cases represent a fraction of custodial rape since the organisation could not openly conduct research in Sri Lanka. “Many of the cases followed a pattern of an individual being abducted from home by unidentified men, taken to a detention centre and abusively interrogated about alleged LTTE activities.”
However, HRW representatives said there was no conclusive evidence of “structural rape” and it was not entirely clear whether rape was part of the strategy to break the detainees or it was carried out by rogue elements. One of the testimonies of a man who had surrendered to government forces in May 2009 said: “Two officials held my arms back [while] a third official held my penis and inserted a metal rod inside. They inserted small metal balls inside my penis. These had to be surgically removed after I escaped from the country.”
The report provides details of interviewees saying that members of several state agencies in Sri Lanka such as the military, military intelligence, police, Criminal Investigation Department and Terrorism Investigation Department conducted abusive interrogations. Further, the cases reported were not just in areas of northern Sri Lanka but occurred in military camps and police stations in Colombo and included the headquarters of the CID and TID.
“No member of the security forces has been prosecuted, let alone convicted for rape in custody in the final years of the conflict or since the war’s end,” said Ms. Ganguly, adding that pictures and videos taken on mobile phones by security forces have shown the “culture of a victorious army” where they are not reprimanded or prosecuted.
“We have held on to this report to release it prior to the UNHRC meeting,” she said. “The Council should direct the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct an independent international investigation on the issue.”