US human rights report notes sexual abuse by Sri Lankan authorities

A US human rights report has noted allegations of sexual abuse committed by Sri Lankan authorities last year.

The ‘2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices’ released by the US State Department notes that there were reports of sexual abuse committed by Government and security sector officials against wives who came forward seeking information about their missing husbands or against war widows who attempted to claim Government benefits based on their deceased husbands’ military service.

The report released by US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo notes that according to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) torture committed by Police forces was routine and continued throughout the country, and it received 193 allegations of physical and mental torture by state actors as of June last year.

It stated that many reports of torture referred to police officers allegedly “roughing up” suspects to extract a confession or otherwise elicit evidence to use against the accused.

The report states that interviews by human rights organizations found that torture by police remained endemic throughout the country.

As in previous years, suspects arrested under the PTA since the civil war ended in 2009 gave accounts of torture and mistreatment, forced confessions, and denial of basic rights such as access to lawyers or family members. Some released former combatants reported torture or mistreatment, including sexual abuse by state officials while in rehabilitation centers and after their release.

Excessive use of force against civilians by police and security officials also remained a concern, the report said.

The Executive Summery of the report notes that human rights issues reported in Sri Lanka included unlawful killings; torture, notably sexual abuse; arbitrary detention by government forces; website blocking; violence against lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons and criminalization of same-sex sexual activity; and corruption. Although same-sex sexual conduct was prohibited by law, it was rarely prosecuted.

Police reportedly harassed civilians with impunity, and the Government had yet to implement a mechanism to hold accountable government security personnel accused of crimes during the civil war. During the year, however, the Government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish some officials who committed human rights abuses. (Colombo Gazette)


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