UK accused of deporting Tamils despite threat of rape and torture

Report by Human Rights Watch says Sri Lanka's security forces have systematically been using sexual violence against suspected LTTE members

The British government is continuing to deport failed asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka despite mounting evidence they face the risk of being raped and tortured on their return. More Tamils are scheduled to be deported this week.

A report published today by Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Sri Lanka’s security forces have been systematically using rape and other forms of sexual violence to torture men and women suspected of being members of the Tamil militant group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), or else having links to the once powerful organisation.

HRW said although rape in custody was commonplace during the decades-long insurgency that left up to 70,000 people dead, it continues to this day to be used as both a punishment and as a means to obtain ‘confessions’.

The report, which took six years to complete, includes the details of 75 cases of rape and sexual assault that took place between 2006-2012. It says that at least two of the cases involved individuals who had been deported back to Sri Lanka after failing to secure asylum in Britain. Other organisations say the number of such cases may be considerably higher.

“This report is a challenge to existing UK government policy. The UK continues to deport Tamils to Sri Lanka - a further charter flight is scheduled for this week - despite evidence that some Tamils with alleged links to the Tamil Tigers have been tortured by the Sri Lankan authorities, following their removal from the UK,” said David Mepham, the UK director of HRW.

He added: “The UK should urgently revise its guidelines for assessing Tamil asylum claims, and not press ahead with removing at-risk Tamils.”

Among the case studies included in the HRW report is that of “YN”, a 46-year-old man who was twice deported back to Sri Lanka, most recently in January 2010. He said he was immediately picked up by police at Colombo airport and taken to the fourth floor of the CID headquarters before being transferred to the northern town of Vavuniya.

He said he was repeatedly beaten, doused with kerosene and had a gun pointed at his head. “I was stripped naked in both detention sites. I was sexually abused by being forced to have oral sex on two or three occasions when I was detained in Vavuniya,” he told HRW investigators.

Another individual, “JS”, a 51-year-old woman, was deported to Sri Lanka in May 2009, as the Sri Lankan military operation to crush the remaining militants was concluding. She was accused of raising funds for the LTTE in Britain, an allegation she denied. “I was kept in this army detention for nearly five months during which I was frequently raped,” she said.

The decision to launch an operation to finally defeat the LTTE, which had been fighting a brutal and bloody battle for a Tamil homeland, was taken by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The army’s victory in May 2009 was widely celebrated by the nation’s Sinhala majority as well as some Tamils. Mr Rajapaksa was convincingly reelected in January 2010, defeating his former military commander, Sarath Fonseka, who was later jailed.

Yet, even before the armed forces’ defeat of the LTTE was complete, there were repeated allegations that civilians were being indiscriminately killed. A panel established by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon suggested that up to 40,000 civilian were killed and said there were credible allegations that both sides had committed war crimes.

Precisely how many individuals have suffered rape, sexual abuse and torture in custody remains unclear. Another NGO, Freedom from Torture, recently obtained information from the UK Foreign Office about 15 individuals who were given asylum after being first deported. All said they had been tortured

In a report published last year, Freedom from Torture documented the cases of 24 Tamils accused of having links to the LTTE who said they were tortured after voluntarily returning to Sri Lanka after the end of the war. Of these, 12 people said they had suffered sexual abuse and assault, including rape.

“Freedom from Torture remains extremely concerned about forcible returns of Tamils to Sri Lanka from the UK in light of our findings that many face a real risk of torture on return and the refusal of the UK Border Agency to update its removals policy,” said the group’s Mark Fenwick.

In a statement, the UK Border Agency said that while Britain had a “proud record of offering sanctuary” to those in need, individuals not at risk should return to their own countries.

“Each claim for asylum is considered on its individual merits - and where we find individuals are in need of our protection, for example if they are at real risk of being tortured or ill treatment on return, we will give it,” said the statement. “We constantly review the situation in Sri Lanka and the current position, supported by the European Court of Human Rights, is that not every Tamil asylum seeker requires our protection.”

A Sri Lankan military spokesman dimissed the allegations. Brig Ruwan Wanigasooriya said: “The report by the HRW is not more than a piece of speculative creativity and the allegations contained therein are far from truth... If such complaints are received, the police have a well established procedure for investigating and bringing those responsible to justice.”

He added: "There have been a few instances in the past where soldiers were charged with violations of human rights including rape and each and every one of those cases have been investigated and those guilty have been punished through due legal procedure.”

Sri Lanka has always denied allegations that it targeted civilians during the war and says it has spent millions of dollars in developing infrastructure, schools and hospitals in those parts of the country previously in the control of the LTTE.

It has always resisted calls for an independent inquiry into what transpired and instead established its own Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission, which effectively cleared both the government and the military of any wrong-doing. A meeting of the UN Human Rights Council next month is expected to pass a resolution calling on Sri Lanka to do more to work towards reconciliation. India is expected to support the motion.

HRW said most of the Tamils it interviewed for its report spoke with its investigators outside of Sri Lanka. It said researchers corroborated their stories with medial and legal records. It said because its team could not openly conduct research in Sri Lanka, the cases it had highlighted “likely represent only a tiny fraction of custodial rape in political cases”.

Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW, said: “The Sri Lankan security forces have committed untold numbers of rapes of Tamil men and women in custody.  These are not just wartime atrocities but continue to the present, putting every Tamil man and woman arrested for suspected LTTE involvement at serious risk.”

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Arts and Entertainment
books
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone