Sri Lanka: Criticism of Ongoing Use of Torture

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(May 13, 2016) In a statement following a nine-day trip to Sri Lanka, Juan E. Méndez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, claimed that criminal and terrorism investigators in Sri Lanka still use torture against detainees, even though the use has declined since the end of the country’s civil war seven years ago. While in the country, Méndez conducted a series of interviews with individuals who had been detained; their stories were confirmed with forensic tests. (Taylor Isaac, UN Rights Expert: Sri Lanka Investigators Still Using Torture, PAPER CHASE (May 8, 2016).) In addition to the use of torture, Méndez reported that prisons are crowded and conditions in them are so poor that, in his words, “deplorable doesn’t even begin to tell the story.” (Krishan Francis, UN Expert Says Torture Still Used by Sri Lanka Investigators, ABC NEWS (May 7, 2016).)

The Rapporteur noted:

Fewer cases are reported today than during the conflict period and perhaps the methods used by the police forces are at times less severe. … But sadly the practice of interrogation under physical and mental coercion still exists and severe forms of torture albeit probably in less frequent instances continue to be used. … Both old and new cases continue to be surrounded by total impunity. (Id.)

Some of the overcrowding, he stated, was the result of long sentences and long periods of detention, sometimes lasting as much as 15 years, before a case is resolved. “This is a serious violation of due process and the presumption of innocence,” he added. (Id.)

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