Alleged human rights violations Lord Naseby defends Sri Lanka
By Shivanthi Ranasinghe
The recent report published by the Associated Press states that more than 50 Tamil men were tortured and sexually assaulted by Sri Lankas security forces. The report states that they had been victimized in 2016, seven years after the end of the war against terrorism, in 2009. Apparently, the medical reports and psychiatric evaluations support their accounts of gang rape, sexual humiliation, and other forms of torture. Piers Pigou, Crisis Groups Senior Consultant for Southern Africa has stated that these are he most egregious and perverted abuses seen in his 40-year career. Interestingly, while the Sri Lankan experts and officials are nodding their heads, it is Lord Naseby, from the British Parliament, who is digging into relevant reports and asking the right questions.
Sri Lankas Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Prasad Kariyawasam was quick to issue a statement assuring the world that the Sri Lankan Government does not condone any form of torture. In his statement, he elaborates that already disciplinary action had been taken against thirty three Police officers for assault and torture and one officer had been dismissed in 2017. This year, he claimed that twenty eight complaints of assault and torture had been received. He further requested assistance from the bilateral partners as well as international organizations for experience and expertise, as well as technical support to ensure the elimination of torture and to prosecute anyone responsible.
Jehan Perera compared the reaction of this government and the former administration to such allegations and appreciated that "this government did not go all out to attack and discredit those who were making complaints against them or the news agencies that published the information. Instead, the government statement gives a comprehensive account of the governments commitment to ensure a torture-free regime."
Both Kariyawasams statement and Pereras assertion clearly accepts the allegations – that the Police and the security forces are violators of human rights. As Perera highlights, the government gives a comprehensive account of its commitment to end torture.
Verifying the charges
In their haste to assure the world that the perpetrators would be punished, neither bothers to verify the charges. As Kate Cronin-Furman notes, the AP report "broke at an inconvenient time for Sri Lanka, which is up for its Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council this week." This is not the first time Sri Lanka has been embarrassed in this manner. In 2007, Sri Lankan security forces serving in Haiti (UN Peacekeeping Forces) were accused of sexual misconduct with minors. This allegation was made the day after Tamilchelvan was eliminated by the Air Force in a daring air strike. Channel 4 got accustomed to releasing Killing Fields series just ahead of the Human Rights Council (HRC) sessions, where the US was pushing for resolutions against Sri Lanka to force it to investigate alleged war crimes. Channel 4 aired Sri Lankas Killing Fields in June 2011 and followed up with Sri Lankas Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished in March 2012. In 2013, the airing of No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka coincided with the 22nd session of the HRC in 2013. Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha, the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in Geneva made a valiant attempt to stop this ghastly endeavour to influence the HRC against Sri Lanka. He made his case to the former President of the HRC, Remigiusz Achilles Henczel. Aryasinha explains in Colombo Telegraph that he "drew attention to ECOSOC Resolution No. 1996/31 of 25 July 1996 that stipulates the parameters of the consultative relationship between the UN and NGOs, which clearly lists as grounds for suspension and withdrawal of consultative status of NGOs, inter alia, specifically where such an organization either directly or through its affiliates or representatives acting on its behalf, clearly abuses its status by engaging in a pattern of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the charter of the UN including unsubstantiated or politically motivated acts against member states of the UN incompatible with those purposes and principles."
When Aryasinha protested, Channel 4 was about to violate this provision for the third consecutive time. Henczels response was to disassociate the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) from the event and to observe that such events "do not reflect an official position of the Council" and that "the organizers of such events, take full responsibility for the content of their events."
With this kind of experience already under our belt, a warning bell should have rung in the heads of our officials and experts.
Instead, it was Lord Naseby who questioned the timing of the report. In an exclusive interview with WION, he explained his reasons for questioning the veracity of this report.
He remembered the recent case of an asylum seeker in the UK, earlier this year, with similar burns on his back and arms. However, signs of infection were absent and the markings were clearly defined than is usual when one has been roughed up.
Therefore, the Judge at the Court of Appeal determined that these were self inflicted and he might have had some help getting these scars.
Credentials of doctors
Even in this report, the credentials of the doctors who certified these wounds were not included. This is despite the fact that it has come to light that there are doctors in London who, for a fee, are willing to inflict these kinds of wounds on asylum seekers under general anaesthesia. The credibility of this report is further challenged as these doctors have failed to mention how they determined that these wounds were inflicted by a third party, and not inflicted by consent.
There was other reasoning that led Lord Naseby to view these reports as a sham. He explained that he visits Sri Lanka once a year and makes it a point to meet the ICRC. The ICRC has access to all prisons, including Boosa, "probably the highest security prison," the immigration area, and Police stations. For three consecutive years, he had met the ICRC.
His question for the Head of the ICRC had always been whether they had come across torture as defined by the Geneva Convention in any form in that year. The answer had always been negative. However, as Lord Naseby puts the situation into perspective, there had been cases of "some heavy handling, but I have to say that theres heavy handling all over the world."
With regard to the situation outside Sri Lanka, especially in the case of Guantanamo Bay, Lord Naseby said, "I don think anything of that nature is being done in Sri Lanka." Lord Naseby questioned "if these tortures did occur in early 2016, then why wait till almost the end of 2017 to bring it out into the open?" His assertion is that this is a ploy to seek asylum in the West, where they will enjoy a better quality of life. Cronin-Furman must seriously consider the logic in this assertion. Instead Cronin-Furman, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Harvard Kennedy Schools Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs, went off at a tangent trying to build a case that it is the officers who are ordering soldiers to torture Tamils.
If it was torture that these alleged victims were trying to escape, how did they end up in the West and not Tamil Nadu, which is only half an hour away from the Northern Province of Sri Lanka (by boat). Sri Lanka is under international scrutiny on human rights. Then is it logical for the security forces or the government to let their prisoners walk out freely and even out of the country with horrific evidence of torture on their bodies?
It is important to establish the truth and serve justice. The previous administration and its Foreign Ministry failed in this endeavour. Though the truth and the facts to prove that truth are clearly on Sri Lankas side, neither government, previous or present, chose to make use of it. The previous government suffered from overconfidence. On the other hand, this government is mortally afraid to take exception to any opinion of the West or their lackeys. It looks like Lord Naseby is fighting our battle on his own.
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