UN Official: Torture common in Sri Lanka

5 Nov

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, who visited Sri Lanka in early October, to assess the situation of torture and ill-treatment, has released a statement concluding that torture is prevalent in the country.

The report cited a daily high volume of complaints that the National Human Rights Commission receives as an indication of widespread torture in the country, especially common in the context of counter-terrorism operations by the TID.

The UN Official also “received numerous consistent and credible allegations from detainees who reported that they were ill-treated by the police during inquiries in order to extract confessions, or to obtain information in relation to other criminal offences. Similar allegations were received with respect to the army.”

He also highlighted other issues such as overcrowded prisons – the total capacity of all prisons is 8,200 though the actual figure is significantly higher at 28,000, causing “inhuman and degrading treatment”.

While the death penalty has been abolished in the country, he “received disturbing complaints of cases of corporal punishment corroborated by medical evidence.” In addition, the courts are still handing out death sentences leading to “a considerable number of condemned prisoners living for many years under the strict conditions of death row.”

Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe has refuted Nowak’s findings and said Sri Lanka adopts a “zero-tolerance” position towards torture; and will be studying the UN official’s preliminary recommendations.

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