Sri Lanka's security forces have used rape to torture and extract confessions from suspected Tamil separatists almost four years after the country's civil war ended, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report on Tuesday.
The rights group documented 75 cases of
predominately Tamil men and women who said they were held in Sri Lankan
detention centres and repeatedly raped and sexually abused by the military,
police and intelligence officials.
The victims - now living as asylum
seekers, most of them in Britain - said once they confessed to being a member of
the Tamil Tiger rebel group, the abuse generally stopped and they were allowed
to escape by paying a bribe, before fleeing abroad.
"We found that rape
was used to secure some sort of confession, but also as a political tool to
punish people," Meenakshi Ganguly, the rights group's South Asia director, told
a news conference in New Delhi.
"These were people who had some
connection with the Tigers ... who were forced to sign confessions, and only
then would the rapes stop."
Ganguly said sexual abuse was only one form
of torture that the people suffered: "They were also severely tortured, burnt by
cigarettes and hung upside down."
Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to New
Delhi said he had no evidence to suggest the allegations of abuse, which the
rights group said occurred from 2006 to 2012, were true.
Prasad Kariyawasam, said the testimonies of 41 women, 31 men and 3 boys were
likely made by "economic refugees" who "need a good story" to get
"Until we do a proper inquiry, we have to believe that these are
all sob stories for the sake of obtaining asylum or refugee status in a
developed country," Kariyawasam told Reuters.
"Until there is a proper
examination ... in the Sri Lankan court system, we will not be able to accept
He said the report was "a well-timed effort" to
discredit Sri Lanka ahead of a vote on a U.S.-backed resolution criticizing it
at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva this week.
Tens of thousands of civilians were killed in 2009, in the
final months of a war that began in 1983, a U.N. panel said, as government
troops advanced on the last stronghold of the rebels fighting for an independent
The U.N. panel said it had "credible allegations" that Sri
Lankan troops and the Tamil Tigers both carried out atrocities and war crimes,
and singled out the government for most of the responsibility for the
Sri Lanka has come under international pressure to bring to book
those accused of war crimes and boost efforts to reconcile a polarised
It has rejected allegations of rights abuse and resisted
pressure to allow an independent commission to investigate war crimes committed
by its army, saying that it is has its own plan to deal with the
But Human Rights Watch said, despite the end of the war, no one
had been prosecuted and human rights violations of Tamil Tiger supporters
continued. Thirty-one cases of rape and torture in the report had been
documented since 2009.
"Many of the medical reports examined by HRW show
evidence of sexual violence such as bites on the buttocks and breasts, and
cigarette burns on sensitive areas like inner thighs and breasts," the group
At the Geneva meeting, the United States is expected to sponsor a
resolution for the second time censuring Colombo and urging it to prosecute
soldiers suspected of killing civilians.
Britain, Canada and the European
Union, where there is a large presence of Tamil refugees and asylum seekers, are
expected to support the resolution.
But Kariyawasam said the New
York-based rights group was working with the Washington to "bring Sri Lanka
"Sri Lanka is not a very big country. We cannot fight with the
most powerful country in the world and their NGOs (non-governmental
organizations) who have a large amount of funds, but we still have the right to
say what we want to say."