19 August, 2017

Continuing Torture & Sexual Violence In Sri Lanka – Part III

By Brian Senewiratne

Dr. Brian Senewiratne

Continued from Tuesday

Equipment

Here is a victim: “I saw plastic pipes, bottles filled with something, a tap with a hose attached, a plastic can or bottle filled with something.

In the corner of the room there were wooden batons, PVC pipes, wires and nylon rope. I noticed a barrel full of water in the corner of the room. I think I saw some polythene bags next to the water barrel.

I could see a table, wires, wooden sticks, blood marks on the wall. It looked like a torture room”.

These torture rooms are common and suggest there is nothing opportunistic or unsanctioned about the abuse. It also indicates that torture is routine and that commanders are fully aware of torture rooms.

Duration

I will quote the Report: “It is worth noting that most victims experienced several of not most of the torture methods catalogued here and for weeks or months, in some case right up to their release for money”.  I would ask again, as I have done earlier, “What if the family is too poor to find the money?”

A new way of waking up a sleeping victim

I quote a victim: “If I was asleep when they came in, they would stamp on my genitals, my penis and my shoulders very hard with their shoes to wake me up”. I’d suggest that you try this highly effective method on someone you know, who is asleep.

Torture methods. A new use for pliers

A victim: “The torture I endured varied each time but included: holding my head under water in the barrel for a while until I could hardly breathe; pressing pliers down my nails; punching me in the stomach and chest and the back of my head. My hands were tied up to a rope that came down from the ceiling and I was beaten very hard with a belt and sticks from my legs up to and over my back.”

There is an entire Chapter at the end of this publication on torture methods.

Women torturers

Women security force personnel continue to be involved in torture of female detainees. This is a pattern observed in previous ITJP testimony and, it has also involved lesbian sexual abuse of women by female soldiers.

To quote a victim: “The woman told me to remove my clothes. I refused. The woman pushed me on to the floor and tried to pull off my clothes. When she had removed the clothes she left the room. Then one of the men hit me hard on my face and the other man was burning me with a metal rod”.

Those who want to see the result can do so in my book. “Sri Lanka: Sexual Violence of Tamils by the Armed Forces”.

Before I move on I will remind the reader again that this is not Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka but Sirisena’s Sri Lanka. Where the Tamils are concerned, all that happened in January 2015 was a name change from Rajapaksa to Sirisena.

Chapter 5   Sexual Violence

Of 24 individuals interviewed from 2016/17, 18 described experiencing sexual violence. This high level of sexual violence is in keeping with previous ITJP findings.

I might add that my book on Sri Lanka: Sexual Violence of Tamils by the Armed Forces, published in 2015 was 160 pages. The 2nd Edition published in 2017 is 265 pages. If you want a book, send me an email and I will send you a book free. I will also send you half a dozen dvds that I have recorded on the suffering of the Tamil people.

Verbal abuse

“Although ethnically derogatory language is quite usual throughout the torture and in holding cells, it is particularly prevalent during the sexual violence”. Here is a victim: “They said things like ‘you Tamil dogs, are you trying to fuck with the Sinhalese, you will always be our slaves. They called me a Tamil dog, Tamil cunt and Tamil cocksucker”.

Here is another: He then took off my underwear and raped me anally with his penis. He then pulled my penis and testicles very hard. ‘We will make sure that you will not create a future Tamil with this’.

I will deal with this verbal abuse later.

Male victims.

“What is striking in all the evidence the ITJP has gathered is the very high prevalence of male sexual violence, including anal rape and oral rape, and 2016/17 is no exception.

The sexual abuse is happening inside known and unknown army camps and other detention sites”

Here is a quote from a witness:

“This man came towards me and touched my face, my hands and tried to touch my penis but I resisted using my hand to push his hand away .He then held one of my hands and made me touch his penis with it. As I touched his penis he pressed my hand so that it was holding his penis. His hand was on top of my hand and he forced me to masturbate him. While he was doing this he tried to take off my jeans but I pushed his hand away”

Here is another witness:

“This time they also squeezed and beat my genitals. They also put a bag over my head which had petrol fumes, and started beating me; I fainted.

On one occasion they also put something that burned very badly on the tip of my penis, they forced a pipe into my anus whilst I was chained from the ceiling.

This man had a polythene bag with him and put his hands inside it and squeezed and twisted my penis. I felt as if I was dying and shouted- ‘if you want to kill me – just kill me’.

Back to the publication: “The incidents of sexual violence including rape often involve the interrogators and guards but also by unknown men. The impression given is that detainees are available for anyone to abuse at night”.

Here is a victim: “He made me kneel down and grabbed me by the hair. He was forcing himself on me; putting his penis into my mouth. I pulled away, he forced himself back on me”.

Here is another victim: “He took my underware off, he touched my penis and he put my penis into his mouth”.

Here is another: “One would hold me and forcibly open my mouth so the other can insert his penis into my mouth. Another man came into the room, he made me kneel and then held me from behind. The other man in front of me put his penis inside my mouth.”

Do I need to go on with this dreadful information? Yes, I do because there is much more and you must get all the information. Is it shocking? Yes it is. That is why I recorded the dvds. If you are not shocked, then I will have to re-record the dvds because they have failed to do what I wanted then to do – to shock the world.

Oral rape

“In most cases the victim is ordered to give oral sex to the perpetrator”.

Here is a witness: “He kneeled in front of me and put his other hand around my penis and started sucking it”.

And another: “This time he forcibly masturbated me three times”

Rape with objects

“In several cases there is anal rape with objects such as metal rods, often when the victim refused to perform oral sex”.

Here is a victim: “The man who sexually abused me came once or twice a week until the end of my detention and continued to force himself on me. Twice when I did’nt satisfy him, he forced an        “S-Lon” pipe into my anus “

And another: “Two came together and sexually assaulted me. They raped me anally by inserting a metal pipe in my anus on 3 or 4 occasions. The men also urinated on me and forced me to drink the urine. It was sickening.”

And another: “They anally raped me, I think with the metal pole that they had brought in”.

Multiple incidents of rape and sexual violence

“Many victims describe being subjected to anal and oral rape in multiple incidents”.

Here is a victim: “He made me sit up and rubbed his penis on my face. I turned my head and he slapped me on my head, then he ordered me to suck his penis. He hit my cheek with his fist and he grabbed my hair and pushed it against the wall till I opened my mouth and he put in his penis. While his penis was inside my mouth I started to choke and making vomiting sounds. He took out his penis and he ejaculated on my face”

“For some victims the abuse ran into multiple incidents over weeks if not months”

Here is a victim: “The sexual abuse happened about 12-13 times but it was perpetrated by the same five men”.

Age is no barrier

“In one particularly cruel case the interrogator/translator came to visit a young victim in his cell on the second night of his detention with another unknown man, pretending to be concerned about his torture injuries and tricking him into undressing so they could see his legs. Then they raped him orally.” It is not necessary to undress the boy if he was going to be raped orally.

The reason for this followed since they turned him over and raped him anally. The young victim says it was “unbearably painful and really disgusting”.

Have I a photograph? Yes I do. It is in my book on Sexual Violence of Tamils by the Armed Forces.

Long term trauma and psychological damage

“Several male survivors describe long term physical problems – and huge psychological damage – arising from the rapes they experienced”.

I can vouch for this in Tamil asylum seekers from the North and East of Sri Lanka, referred to me in Brisbane, Australia. Some of them have been described in my book which I have referred to.  Many had physical problems such as pain on defeacation (because of anal rape and the insertion of barbed wire into the rectum) and major psychological damage – some requiring hospitalisation especially when they had intentions of suicide.

Females

All three of the women interviewed for this Report were raped. I might add an explanatory note as to why there are so few women. As has been recorded in my book on Sexual Violence of Tamils, there is reluctance for women to admit that they have been raped. They prefer to keep it to themselves. Today there are some 60,000 female-headed households in the Tamil North and East of Sri Lanka living in insecure huts. Rape by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and Police living in the area is a daily occurrence. Most of them simply do not have the money to pay ‘people smugglers’ to leave the country. 

“One woman held in Joseph Camp described a female military officer escorting a male officer into her cell at night. He burned her with his cigarette and then violently ripped her clothes off and raped her”.

A second victim held by military intelligence was so traumatised relating to her rape that the interview had to be stopped as she sobbed uncontrollably. 

For the third – a very young woman, the sexual violence began during the torture sessions with the interrogator ripping her shirt and bra and squeezing her breasts and trying to put his hand down her trousers. Sinhalese women soldiers were present and seemed to enjoy the Tamil women’s torment.

Here is the victim: “The two women standing in the room were laughing when he was touching me”.

There is a lot more than this in my book on “Sexual Violence of Tamils by the Armed Forces”. There is a word of caution in taking the history. I found that some asylum-seeker women I saw in Australia, did not use the word “rape” or “sexual violence”. They would say they were ‘stroked’ or “hugged” by the Army. When I said “You mean you were raped” they would nod their heads. Often tears would roll down. When they realised that I was a Sinhalese (because an interpreter was present), they would simply stop talking because they did not know whether what they told me would be relayed back to Sri Lanka.   

To be continued …

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Latest comments

  • 4
    3

    Dear Dr Senewiratne

    Your campaign is most laudable. However, is it necessary to continue, ad nauseum, with the salacious detail? The details can be reserved for the consideration of those who will take up the fight. The concern of the greater readership is that this is still going on. AND, for obvious reasons, it needs to be stopped for the good of ALL of of us.

    • 0
      0

      I wish Sirisena`s family reads these and Pray for the consolation of the victims in their land,
      as there is nothing they can ever do about their Forces. The New Commander has a chance
      to step in – if he is genuine?

  • 3
    3

    Dear Brian,

    I admire your dedication and persistence, though, having been involved in human rights activity for decades, I would not have found it at all easy to sit through the great deal of detail you have heard from victims and placed on record. What you have done is necessary. While many minds would be closed to what you say, not simply because they belong to Sinhalese or Tamils, I have no difficulty about the accuracy of your information; whether, coming from me, you acknowledge it as a compliment or not.

    When you wrote your foreword for the Broken Palmyra in 1990, I had no reason to doubt that we would continue to be on the same side. You wrote, “[The killing of Rajani Thiranagama] was a warning to the others that a totalitarian regime has established itself in Jaffna…Across the country the Rule of Law has been replaced by the Rule of the Armed Hoodlum.” Had you held fast to that position, we should have been allies.

    What your documentation grimly shows is the potential for great evil when armed forces are free to act with impunity against civilians who are at their mercy. The Tigers were no exception. Some armies have been better at covering up their misdeeds than others. If Sri Lanka were a superpower, it would not have been so easily embarrassed by the flood of videos, photographs and testimonies of refugees and deserters getting into the hands of newsmen and human rights monitors. That is why small, vulnerable countries ought to be well behaved and fervent in observing the law.

    If it were feasible, we should work for the dismantling of all armed forces.

    • 5
      3

      Hi Brian, I do not agree what the forces men have done to these people . You haven’t bother to investigate what tamil tigers also done to innocent people. I also feel that you are anti Sirisena and a Rajapaksa supporter, the way you had started this article. Do you really think that these things did not happened during Rajapaksa time. Infact I heard many stories worst things happened during Rajapaksa time.Even British channel 4, John Snow had TV program Killing fields. In that not only killing tamils, also sexual incidents. Try to watch that. Without being bias, being a Rajapasa supporter.

      • 5
        4

        Seneka From UK – Hi Brian, I do not agree what the forces men have done to these people . You haven’t bother to investigate what tamil tigers also done to innocent people.

        TFN: By this statement alone you have recognized the dreaded LTTE as a legitimate force. Some from the Tamil community are trying their best distance themselves from this cruel force, and you are bringing them back by making statements like this. If you really want to prosecute the LTTE, there are ex-LTTE fellows running around Colombo with body guards, go and prosecute them.

  • 3
    4

    Hi Brian, I totally agree with you as I have gone thru the same situation you have described. I would like to have a copy of the book and few CD s if you don’t mind please. Thank you

  • 2
    1

    It is atrocious and disgusting

  • 4
    3

    Dr.Brian
    Until I fled the island in July 1983, as a legal professional, I have had occasion to interact with torture victims – hear the painful experiences of scores of Tamil youths who had suffered cruel and degrading treatment at the hands of Sri Lankan police/military officers. I still recall the names of Ganegama, Algama, among the tormentors. Prisoners Kuttimany, Thangathurai, Jegan, Thevan, Nadesuthasan and a host of others, whom Senior Counsel M.Sivasithamparam and I represented, were subjected to severe torture during ostensible investigation and were eventually slaughtered at Welikade jail with official connivance. The notorious torture chamber at that time was Elephant Pass army camp.
    In 1999, I happened to work for a Solicitors Firm in UK, interviewed clients and had heard sordid accounts of Tamil youths who were condemned to serve as sex slaves in Sri Lankan military camps. Apparently, the potential “war heroes” had a penchant for oral sex .
    AI Report, “Sri Lanka: Rape in Custody”, 28 June2002 (AI Index- ASA 37 / 001 / 2002) recounts incidents of sexual violence against Tamil women by military men, and the victims included septuagenarian grannies.
    From Dr. Brian’s account, it appears that now with advanced technology, medieval minds under Sirisena-Ranil Govt, have adopted advanced torture techniques. I have yet to hear the tame voice of TNA leaders, in protest.
    Thank you Dr. Brian

  • 2
    4

    ……I have yet to hear the tame voice of TNA leaders,in protest…….

    The TNA leaders are in cuckoo land; They are under the mistaken notion that the envisaged New Constitution will sort out all problems including Torture!!
    Anyway, I admire Dr.Brian for his courage,at this age,to document all this. I am sure these demons who have tortured and are continuing to torture Tamil detainees constitute a very small fraction of the Sinhala community.
    It was tough reading for me though.

  • 6
    4

    Why don’t you say something about the atrocities committed by the tamils, the LTTE. You are bullshitting. You say you have spoken to victims, I say you are either lying or exaggerating. The LTTE was the most brutal and unscrupulous terror organization of its day. Where are the investigations of the unprecedented atrocities committed by the tamils. Is this advantageous to reconciliation. Take a look at South Africa and how Nelson Mandela encouraged and facilitated reconciliation. Some tamil called Sellam says its atrocious and disgusting. I say that what the LTTE did was a hundred times more atrocious and disgusting.

    • 2
      5

      Just because the LTTE was this that and the other, it does not mean that the govt can engage in torture. Even hurting a hair on a detained person is wrong and criminal. However, the kind of writing Mr. Seneviratne, Tamilnet etc are engaged in, does not, and will not stop torture from happening. The way these things are written and presented and the agenda and purpose behind them, is as appalling as the crimes they are describing. There is also the question of trustworthiness of the descriptions. How is it that the so called victims have ended in western countries, within such short time? How did they get to those countries? Why would the govt just arrest and torture people and then just release them? Something is not quite right. I would think if the govt arrests a person and torture him/her, they would not just release them. Anyways this kind of writing is just anti-Sinhalese propaganda, and will not help stop torture or make a better and peaceful society. At least we know that 45+ years of this kind of writing has not helped.

    • 0
      2

      Peter mendis

      “Why don’t you say something about the atrocities committed by the tamils, the LTTE. “

      Did the Tamil LTTE commit atrocities? Was it the first time atrocities being committed in this island?

      “You are bullshitting. “

      Let him Bull Shit. What about you? Do you think armed forces have never committed human rights violation, war crime and crime against humanity?

      “The LTTE was the most brutal and unscrupulous terror organization of its day.”
      Do you think so? I never heard of LTTE leave alone scale of its brutality.

      “Take a look at South Africa and how Take a look at South Africa and how Nelson Mandela encouraged and facilitated reconciliation. encouraged and facilitated reconciliation.”

      Nelson Mandela was the president of South Africa. I don’t think a Tamil Man was ever elected as president of this strange island. Being a very wise man, Nelson set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which did wonders towards the process of reconciliation. By the way any of the past or present presidents of this island seriously have attempted to unearth truth? Is there a Sri Lankan Truth & Reconciliation Commission actively seeking truth?

      Please find out about South African Truth & Reconciliation Commission before you start typing in response to my comment.

      “I say that what the LTTE did was a hundred times more atrocious and disgusting.”

      Very very good point. I believe you have some sort of comparative studies you have commissioned on atrocity and disgust. Could we have a copy of the comparative study so that we could also benefit from it.

      • 4
        1

        Stupid vedda
        Ad usual nonsensical BS!
        Don’t be idiotic, South Africa was the opposite of SL where the majority was ruled by the minority. Once the majority get the power they could do anything they like. Most whites left the country to UK, US, Australia etc.

  • 3
    2

    Why is it that I get the impression that stopping torture and sexual violence is not the purpose of this piece of writing or should I say reproduction of this same writing, for the n-th time?

  • 1
    4

    Dear Kamar

    I will be delighted to send you a copy of my book ( now 2 books) if you send me your postal address. so also the 7 dvds i have recorded
    there is no charge either for the books, the dvds or the postage
    i can well afford this
    Send me an email to bsenewiratne@gmail.com with your postal address and send you the lot for free
    Allow me a few days because the book on Sexual Violence has to be reprinted because there has been a huge demand for this and all the printed ones have gone. That is no problem, I can get more copies printed. However, my local printer works alone and is not that quick.
    Brian Senewiratne

  • 2
    4

    To Rajan Hoole

    Dear Rajan

    Thank you so much for what you have written.. What you (and others) did to me I will never forget – to get me to write the Foreword to your outstanding book – the Broken Palmyrah… I got such a shock when I was asked to do this and consider it as one of the greatest things that has happened to me over the six decades that I have campaigned for the cause of the Tamil people. Thank you to you and the other 2 (remaining) authors of this outstanding book.

    You are an incredible guy who has written some extraordinay articles and books on this over many years.. I was delighted to know that you had the courage to get back to where you are and do the things you continue to do. It is my good fortune to know you and your entire family for as long as I have.

    It is said that no one is irreplaceable but in my opinion I think you are.
    kindest regards
    Brian

    • 1
      3

      Thank you Brian,
      However much we may agree or disagree, as long as we are able to maintain civilised discourse, there is hope. That is something we as a country seem to have lost by the end of the 1960s, although the conditions for it had been there for some time.

  • 1
    4

    dear Kamar
    I will be delighted to send you a copy of my book on Sexual Violence of Tamils and my newest (just published) book “The struggle for Justice of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, and the 6 dvds I have recorded on all this

    send me your postal address and they will be on their way.
    No payment is necessary, i can well afford to do this for free
    regards
    Brian Senewiratne

  • 2
    4

    Some of your correspondents do not seem to understand english, or prefer not to. When one of then says “Why don’t you say something about the atrocities committed by the tamils, the LTTE. You are bullshitting. You say you have spoken to victims, I say you are either lying or exaggerating.” said at the very beginning of this series of articles that I was only reporting what the International Truth and Justice Project(ITJP) had reported.

    I have stated in the clearest possible language that if you have a problem with what has been published you should take it up with the ITJP and its Executive head, Yasmin Sooka. I did not speak with the victims, the ITJP did.

    I think the problem is that as soon as my name is seen, you are so overwhelmed by hate that you do not bother to actually read what is written.

    Brian Senewiratne

    • 4
      2

      BS
      As you say, if you are using second hand information (ITJP) to write articles, you should use your intellect to have a deep look at it’s value. As I have pointed out to you earlier (for which you did not reply!) the method used to come up with this report is flawed. Asylum seekers will say anything to get asylum. Why haven’t these separatist supported ITJP do it’s research in SL where the real Tamils are living?
      You can keep writing anti-Sri Lankan garbage but try to do it with legitimate information.

  • 0
    2

    Thank you Brian,
    However much we may agree or disagree, as long as we are able to maintain civilised discourse, there is hope. That is something we as a country seem to have lost by the end of the 1960s, although the conditions for it had been there for some time.

  • 1
    3

    Considering how the police treated young Sinhalese women during the first JVP uprising why should anybody doubt the veracity of Dr Seneviratne’s comments? I can remember a girl pleading with an armed planter “please hand me over to the army. They will kill me but the police will rape me first”. It wasn’t long before police or army made no difference.

    • 3
      1

      Paul
      Is this info from a asylum seeker?
      Or were you standing near this pleading girl?

  • 3
    2

    Cool story, bro :D

  • 1
    0

    My father has said that his intention is to shock and I am shocked. Not by the unnecessarily graphic retelling of Yasmin Sooka’s publication, but that it would be published on a website that should be suitable for young readers. Yasmin Sooka is not a reliable witness and the claims of asylum seekers should be taken with a pinch of salt when it comes to such matters. These asylum seekers were speaking in Tamil and translated to English. The way my father presents the supposed abuse in the most vulgar English (that would be censored by a decent newspaper) is hearsay that, as he admits himself, is intended to “shock the world”.

    Regarding his books, which I have read, meticulous attention to accuracy and truth is of more value than how many pages are written and how “shocking” the material is. It’s a matter of what is written and how it is written..

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