The fighting stopped in Sri Lanka five years ago but torture and rape by the security forces hasn’t. Here you will find horrifying tales from survivors of Sri Lanka’s notorious “white vans” run by the police and army. Most were targeted because they were suspected supporters or members of the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels. Forty survivors – men and women - describe being handcuffed and blindfolded, thrown into darkened cells where they were repeatedly subjected to torture, including branding with hot metal objects and multiple rapes so brutal that they were left heavily bleeding. These people only lived to tell the tale because their families paid large bribes to the security forces for their release; nobody knows what happens to those without money or relatives to save them.
The shame and social stigma around rape and sexual violence is so intense that witnesses wept, shook and even vomited at the recollection of their ordeal. Nearly half tried to commit suicide after their release. They still bear terrible scars –cigarette burn marks, branding marks, whip lashes, and of course the psychological trauma. In many cases, even abroad their torment doesn’t end because the security forces continue to target their families remaining in Sri Lanka. More than half were abducted as recently as 2013 and 2014 and have only just reached safety. abroad.
The evidence gathered here indicates these violations are part of a plan approved by the highest levels of government. Security officers know they are safe in committing these crimes; no action will be taken against them. This body of new testimony establishes a prima facie case of ongoing crimes against humanity by the Sri Lankan security forces, with respect to (a) torture and (b) rape and sexual violence.
Action must be taken to bring the perpetrators to justice. Every witness said they were recounting their ordeal in the hope that these crimes would stop and nobody else would have to suffer as they did.
"This important report confirms and provides evidentiary advances on earlier reports of torture, including sexual violence and rape, being used by members of the Sri Lankan security forces against Tamils perceived to be LTTE supporters. It shows in stark detail how abductions by the Sri Lankan Central Investigation Department , the Terrorist Investigation Division, and the police continue to be conducted through the use of "white vans," a symbol long associated with state terror. Notably, the report demonstrates that among the places where sexual violence and torture took place were rehabilitation camps funded and supported by the international community.
This evidence corroborates and builds upon earlier reports, including Human Rights Watch's March 2013 report, "We Will Teach You a Lesson," which documented 75 similar cases with supporting medical and legal documentation. This new report, when coupled with previous evidence, should finally jolt all governments to take action and stop accepting at face value the Sri Lankan government's feigned efforts to bring to justice those responsible for these and earlier atrocities.”
Executive Director, Human Rights Watch
"Sri Lanka was once a State governed by the rule of law. It was once a State with an independent judiciary and legal profession free from State interference. Sri Lanka was once a State that protected the fundamental human rights of all its citizens. None of that is true today and yet Sri Lanka remains a member of the Commonwealth and faces no sanctions for the gross abuses of human rights for which its governors are responsible. This well-informed and well-documented report should shock the conscience of leaders across the Commonwealth and spur them to move beyond the rhetoric of human rights statements to effective action against the perpetrators of the barbaric and atrocious crimes identified in this really important report."
Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC
March 17, 2014 |
“I was sent for rehabilitation but then later I was abducted again. I was held in a room and although I...
About this Website
This website plots 40 cases of torture, sexual violence and rape by the security forces in Sri Lanka in the post-war period, 2009-2014.
Witness statements have been documented in a new report by Yasmin Sooka of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa, with help from the Bar Human Rights Committee, England and Wales. The report analyses the systematic and widespread nature of rape and torture in Sri Lanka, nearly five years after the civil war ended.
Our map also plots 62 post-war cases documented by Human Rights Watch in their February 2013 report.
Given these are cases where survivors have fled abroad, they may represent only the tip of an iceberg.