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Torturing In Sri Lanka?

By Chandi Sinnathurai

03 September, 2010

It is cited that bad politics, systemic institutional violence and unwritten aggressive policies are some of the causes for Sri Lanka to be constantly exporting a steady output of asylum-seekers to the developed world. The thirty-year conflict has sadly made many Tamils to leave the country including some from the majority community, the Sinhalas.

In the light of President Rajapaksha's project of rebuilding the country as a peaceable habitation for all communities, the September 3 Australian Amnesty Report is very worrying (See Appendix). Three Sri Lankans from the Sinhala community have sought asylum in Australia but having their application rejected they were promptly returned to their country of origin. On return, as per this report, these three individuals were abused and underwent torture in Sri Lanka.

It is no doubt that asylum seekers in many lands having read such a report would be saying if this was the plight of the Sinhala returnees then what chance is left for Tamils?

If this is the background in which Sri Lanka is trying to thrive then no wonder it is a depressing development. The challenge for Sri Lanka is to clean up its act from within its core and to uphold the values of human rights and common decency.

Now that the Tamil tigers are out of the equation the government has no one else to blame.


Sri Lankan asylum seekers tortured after being forcibly returned from Australia
3 SEPTEMBER 2010, 10:51AM

Amnesty International is today calling on the Sri Lankan government to ensure the safety of three men who have been tortured and jailed following their forced return from Australia in 2009.

Two of the men, Sumith Mendis and Lasantha Wijeratne, were transferred to a hospital to be examined by a judicial medical officer on 1 September amid claims that they were beaten and tortured following an alleged new attempt to seek asylum in Australia. It is not clear if they are still in hospital or have returned to prison. All three are at risk of further abuse from guards and prisoners when they are returned to prison where Sumith’s brother, Indika, is already being held.

“This is an appalling situation that calls into question the actions of both the Sri Lankan and Australian governments,” said Madhu Malhotra, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Asia.

“Both governments are culpable in the forced return and mistreatment these men have endured, and both must bear responsibility for the results of their policies and procedures.”

Sumith Mendis and Indika Mendis were detained in 2009 at the Christmas Island detention centre after the boat they were on was stopped by Australian authorities and found to be carrying Sri Lankan asylum seekers.

They were deported to Sri Lanka and promptly arrested and handed over to the Central Investigative Department (CID). Sumith Mendis was released, but Indika Mendis was tortured in CID custody, sustaining severe ear injuries before being transferred to the notorious Negombo prison where he was held for eight months.

On 14 August 2010, the brothers were arrested again, apparently on suspicion that they were again planning to seek asylum in Australia. Sumith Mendis was then tortured by the CID for six days, experiencing beatings and psychological abuse.

On 22 August, the brothers were taken to Negombo prison, along with Lasantha Wijeratne, another Sri Lankan who had also been deported from Australia and tortured in custody.

Following examination by a judicial medical officer, Sumith Mendis and Lasantha Wijeratne were transferred to the hospital.

They now face the risk of abuse by both prisoners and guards when they are again taken to Negombo prison unless authorities take the necessary steps to ensure their safety.

“The Sri Lankan authorities must ensure that all three men are not subject to any more torture or ill-treatment, either at the hands of the CID or prisoners or guards in Negombo prison,” said Madhu Malhotra.

“The Australian government must re-examine its claims that asylum seekers returned to countries they are fleeing from are not subjected to torture and mistreatment.”

SOURCE: Amnesty International Australia. http://www.amnesty.org.au/news/comments/23625/