Report of Special Rapporteur on Torture

by UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Geneva, December 22, 2016

SR Torture report on visit to Sri Lanka


109. The issue of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is part of the legacy of the country’s armed conflict, and one of the reasons why the citizens of Sri Lanka continue to live without minimal guarantees of protection against the power of the State, in particular its security forces.

110. Torture and ill-treatment, including of a sexual nature, still occur, in particular in the early stages of arrest and interrogation, often for the purpose of eliciting confessions. The gravity of the mistreatment inflicted increases for those who are perceived to be involved in terrorism or offences against national security. The police resort to forceful extraction of information or coerced confessions rather than carrying out thorough investigations using scientific methods.

111. Procedural norms that entrust the police with full investigative powers over all criminal cases and, in the case of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, allow for prolonged arbitrary detention without trial are firmly in place. This enables an “open door policy” for police investigators to use torture and ill-treatment as a routine method of work. The result is that cases, old and new, continue to be surrounded by total impunity.

112. Conditions of detention amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment owing to severe overcrowding, insufficient ventilation, excessive heat and humidity, and the denial of adequate access to health care, education, vocational training and recreational activities.

113. The current legal framework and the lack of reform within the structures of the armed forces, the police, the Office of the Attorney-General and the judiciary perpetuate the risk of torture. Sri Lanka needs urgent and comprehensive measures to ensure structural reform in these institutions to eliminate torture and ensure that all authorities comply with international standards. A piecemeal approach is incompatible with the soon-to-be-launched transitional justice process and could undermine it before it really begins.

114. The establishment of a transitional justice mechanism is an important aspect of the reform process in Sri Lanka and may contribute to the elimination of torture and provide for reparations. To be effective, it must be implemented in good faith and trusted by victims and other stakeholders. Without this, there will be lack of confidence in the transitional justice system.

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