UN rights expert indicts Lankan army for torture

United Nations, October 30:

Torture appears to be widely practiced by the police and military in Sri Lanka, a UN human rights expert said.

Manfred Nowak, the UN’s independent expert on torture and other cruel and degrading punishment, said yesterday that he observed during a visit to Sri Lanka earlier this month that torture “is prone to become routine in the context of counter-terrorism operations,” especially by the Terrorist Investigation Department.

In visits to police stations and prisons, Nowak said, he 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 said in a statement released as he appeared before the UN General Assembly’s human rights committee.

Nowak said the methods reported included beating with weapons, including on the soles of the feet, blows to the ears, suspension in various positions, burning with metal objects and cigarettes, asphyxiation with plastic bags with chilly pepper or gasoline, “and various forms of genital torture.” “Though the government has disagreed, in

my opinion the high number of indictments for torture filed by the Attorney General’s office, the number of successful fundamental rights cases decided by the SC of Sri Lanka,

as well as the high number of complaints that the National Human Rights Commission continues to receive on an almost daily basis indicates that torture is widely practiced in Sri Lanka,” he said.

Nowak said he originally intended to assess torture and ill-treatment in the entire country, including the police, security forces, LTTE and other groups.

Nowak said he could not draw conclusions on torture during the conflict because the government insisted that the armed forces no longer keep detainees within their facilities and did not permit him to travel to Kilinochchi, the main town in the LTTE de facto state in the north, to meet the rebels.

COLOMBO: Government troops fought with separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in three areas of northern Sri Lanka in clashes that killed 13 of the guerrillas,

the military said on Tuesday. — AP