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​Torture 'routine' across country, Commission reports

Graphic: Man sits alone on a bed in cell

The Commission has drawn on its complaint statistics to prepare a comprehensive submission to the UN Committee against Torture.

Drawing on complaint statistics at its disposal, the Human Right Commission of Sri Lanka has said it "recognizes torture to be of routine nature that is practiced all over the country, mainly in relation to police detentions".

In its report submitted to the UN Committee against Torture, the Commission said the complaints received by the Commission illustrate that torture is commonly used, regardless of the nature of the suspected offence for which the person is arrested.

"For instance, those arrested on suspicion of robbery, possession of drugs, assault, treasure hunting, dispute with family/spouse, have been subjected to torture," the report stated.

While the number of complaints of torture has been declining in the last three years from 600 complaints in 2013, the Commission received 420 complaints in 2015 and 208 so far in 2016.

The Commission said that complainants of torture usually come from low-income groups.

It also noted that "the prevailing culture of impunity" is a contributing factor to the routine use of torture as a means of interrogation and investigation.

In its report, the Commission said it requires the full support of all relevant authorities to effectively respond to complaints of torture and work towards its eradication.

"In order for the Commission to effectively fulfil its mandate, state institutions should share information readily, including information about violations, proposed legislative reform and policy frameworks for vetting, and implement the recommendations of the Commission.

"The Commission is of the view that currently there is political space to critique existing laws, systems, processes and practices, and to make necessary interventions for required reform."

The UN Committee against Torture will review the situation in Sri Lanka on 15-16 November 2016 and publish its findings, officially known as concluding observations, on 7 December 2016.

The full report of Human Right Commission of Sri Lanka is available on its website.

Date: 1 November 2016

Image credits

  1. Man sits alone on a bed in cell - APF/Michael Power