Locked Away: Sri Lanka’s Security Detainees

by Amnesty International, March 2012

Amnesty – ‘Locked Away Sri Lanka’s Security Detainees’ 2012

[This report continues the practice of ignoring the ethnic aspects of the situation in Sri Lanka by NEVER mentioning the words ‘Tamil,’ ‘Sinhalese,’ or ‘Muslim.’  This practice seems to be weakening a bit with the attacks on Muslims. — Ed/]

The Sri Lankan government won its long war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) in 2009, but the legacy of unlawful detention practices established during the
conflict continues. Constitutional provisions and other legal and procedural guarantees meant
to protect individuals from wrongful incarceration and ensure fair prosecution of suspects
have been supplanted in Sri Lanka by provisions of antiterrorism laws and emergency
measures geared to serve perceived military expediency rather than protect human rights and
the rule of law.
For the past three decades, Sri Lankan authorities have circumvented or ignored protections
built into the ordinary criminal justice system, sometimes acting outside the law, but often
taking advantage of security legislation that allowed them to arrest suspects without evidence
or warrants and to hold them without charge or trial for extended periods. This security
regime has been a way of life for a generation of policymakers, law enforcement and military
personnel, civil servants and ordinary Sri Lankans. It has warped public concepts of justice
and due process, and eroded faith in law enforcement. It has disabled healthy checks on
executive power, expediting arrests and detentions at the expense of human rights,
obstructing legal challenges to detention, and restricting the free flow of information.
Hopes that the end of the armed conflict would end (or at least decrease) these practices
have been frustrated. Sri Lankan authorities continue to arrest and detain suspects without
minimal safeguards. Sri Lankan law permits police to remove prisoners from their cells and
transport them from place to place for the purpose of investigation – a practice that has
contributed to torture and custodial killings. Detainees have been held incommunicado and
tortured in unofficial places of detention which have included private homes, repurposed
schools, administrative buildings and warehouses. Torture, enforced disappearances and
extrajudicial executions continue in Sri Lanka in part because of these arbitrary detention
practices. The culture of impunity that was established in Sri Lanka during the course of the
armed conflict continues to pervert the rule of law and hamper the provision of justice.
This report exposes ongoing unlawful detention practices in Sri Lanka as part of a pattern of
human rights violations that has persisted after the end of the armed conflict. Sri Lankan
authorities must stop these practices, investigate and prosecute reported human rights
violations against detainees, and repeal or amend laws that do not conform to international
human rights standards

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