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SAPA PR--YASMIN SOOKA PUBLISHES REPORT ON BRUTAL TACTICS OF POST-WAR SRI...
Mar 24, 2014 at 02:34 PM
ISSUED BY: FOUNDATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS SA

ATTENTION: NEWS EDITORS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:


YASMIN SOOKA PUBLISHES REPORT ON BRUTAL TACTICS OF POST-WAR SRI LANKA AND CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION BY INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY.

A new report lays bare the horrific tactics used in Sri Lanka's continuing war against ethnic Tamils. IT collects disturbing testimony from 40 victims to support one of the most compelling legal cases to date for holding the island's authorities to account for crimes against humanity.

The report was released in London ahead of the 26 March UN Human Rights Council debate on a US-led resolution calling for an international probe into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.

The report, "An Unfinished War: Torture and Sexual Violence in Sri Lanka, May 2009-March 2014" has been produced by human rights lawyer,YasminSooka, the Bar Human Rights Committee, England and Wales, and the International Truth & Justice Project, Sri Lanka.

It details appalling evidence showing that, five years after claiming victory in its 26-year territorial conflict with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) separatists, Sri Lanka's military is still waging a campaign of persecution using abduction, arbitrary detention, torture, rape and sexual violence.

Sworn statements along with medical and psychiatric examinations have been gathered from dozens of Tamil men and women who sought refuge in the UK after being subjected to abuses in Sri Lanka. Almost all incidents they described took place after the war, some of it as recently as February 2014.

Their credible accounts, documented by nine independent lawyers from Western and Asian countries, establish a prima facie case to answer for post-war crimes against humanity involving torture, rape and sexual violence by the Sri Lankan military.

They also give lie to the Sinhalese-majority government's claim it is seeking reconciliation with its Tamil former enemies. Instead they show it is using draconian anti-terror laws and so-called "rehabilitation camps" to hunt and torture anyone remotely connected to the losing side.

"The cases of torture, rape and sexual violence described in this report are just a small sample of those crimes likely to have been committed against Tamils," said YasminSooka. "The international community must act now otherwise such atrocities will continue to define post-conflict Sri Lanka."Ms Sookais the Executive Director for Human Rights in South Africa and was appointed by the Secretary General to the United Nations to serve on a Panel of Experts advising the Secretary General on accountability for war crimes committed during the final stages of the war in Sri Lanka. The report was delivered in 2011.

The new report collected accounts from abuse survivors including several who were abducted after returning to Sri Lanka as failed asylum seekers. Many describe being bundled into notorious white vans used by security agents to spirit people away and terrorise the Tamil community.

They reported being blindfolded and thrown into darkened cells where they were repeatedly interrogated or subjected to torture and sexual attacks so extreme they were left bleeding.

One young manwas raped and when he had a penis forced in his mouth was told,"Tamil's people's mouths are only good for oral sex".

A young woman was subjected to forced vaginal and anal penetration, as well as being violated using a baton. She was forced to have oral sex simultaneously while being raped and endured seven gang rape sessions interspersed with severe beatings.

In most cases, these testimonies have only come to light because relatives bribed their way out of detention and off the island. Many more may not have been able to afford their freedom.

Responding to the report, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said he found it "horrifying" that almost half of the witnesses had tried to kill themselves. "This indicates the Sri Lankan government has achieved its aim in destroying these souls, who are unlikely to regain happiness and peace in their lives," he said.

The report's authors say its evidence must urgently be referred to an International Criminal Court or an international tribunal. They call on the United Nations Secretary General to establish an international inquiry to investigate and prosecute violations by Sri Lankan security force members.

They also urge the UN Secretary General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict and the Special Rapporteur on Torture to arrange a visit to Sri Lanka and initiate a special inquiry into rape and sexual violence.

Furthermore, they call on the UN to suspend Sri Lankan police and military involvement in international peace-keeping operations pending an independent inquiry into allegations of abuse and recommend all nations and world bodies review their relationship with Sri Lanka.

"This report has immediate implications for asylum policy, donor funding and the international community as a whole," added YasminSooka. "Every witness who spoke to our investigators said they were recounting their ordeal in the hope of bringing an end to these crimes." The report is available at www.stop-torture.com/#

YasminSookaserved on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Sierra Leone. Ms Sookahas assisted the Governments of Ghana, Liberia and Timor-Leste in setting up Truth Commissions and is the co-author of the African Union's 2014 Policy on Transitional Justice.

For further information please contact Maureen Isaacson

082 9006473


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