The men told their stories to The Associated Press and showed extensive scars on their legs, chests and groins photographed in July and August.
The AP reviewed 32 medical and psychological evaluations and conducted interviews with 20 men. The strangers say they were accused of trying to revive a rebel group on the losing side of the civil war. Although combat ended 8 years ago, the torture and abuse occurred from early 2016 to as recently as July this year.
Sri Lankan authorities deny the allegations.
Piers Pigou, a South African human rights investigator who has interviewed torture survivors for the past 40 years in the world’s most dire countries, says the sheer scale of brutality is nothing like he has heard before.
“The levels of sexual abuse being perpetuated in Sri Lanka by authorities are the most egregious and perverted that I’ve ever seen.”
Most of the men say they were blindfolded as they were driven to detention sites. They said the majority of their captors identified themselves as members of the Criminal Investigations Department, a police unit that investigates serious crimes. Some, however, said it appeared their captors and interrogators were soldiers based on the types of uniforms and insignia they were wearing. One man reported seeing army uniforms hanging on a clothes line and many of the men wearing army boots.
In an interview last week in Colombo, Sri Lanka Army Commander Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake denied the torture allegations.
“The army was not involved – and as for that matter – I’m sure that police also were not involved,” he said. “There’s no reason for us to do that now.”
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, one of the U.N.’s top diplomats who has pushed for accountability in Sri Lanka, was aghast at the AP’s accounts of the 52 tortured men.
“While the U.N. is unable to confirm this until we mount an investigation, clearly the reports are horrifying and merit a much closer inspection from our part, especially if they occurred in 2016 and 2017,” said Zeid, the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The International Truth and Justice Project has gathered testimony from more than 60 Sri Lankans across Europe – 52 of whom were part of the AP’s investigation. The group has been lobbying governments and international organizations to get justice for victims. (Colombo Gazette)