By Brian Senewiratne –
Continued from last Thursday
Securing “confessions” through torture
“Every case results in a confession signed by the victim, which they are not able or allowed to read. The documents to be signed are either blank pages or are written in Sinhala, a language the victim does not know”.
Here is a victim: “I signed six or seven pages of the Sinhala written documents. I do not know what they said as they were not translated to me and I did not ask, as I thought if I asked questions they would beat me up again”
To say that the confessions are signed under duress is an understatement. Here is a victim: “If you don’t sign the sheet we will kill you”
Here is another victim and a rather unusual response from her.
“The questions were more like statements: they accused me of being a member of the LTTE and having contacts to LTTE members abroad ad told me to admit this. The next days, they did not ask many questions, they just started beating me with wooden sticks. I asked what they wanted with me. The interrogator repeated the main allegations, so I said “either I agree to your allegations or you can kill me”. He repeated that I was an LTTE member who had come to regroup the LTTE and I said “yes I am”. After some time he stopped the beating.
Interrogators use a great deal of degrading and abusive language during the torture.
Here is a victim: “The beating continued more than 10 minutes all over my body, he was shouting “why can’t you tell the truth” and he used bad words like ‘motherfucker’ and ‘son-of-a-bitch’.
So you need a separate country.”
Here is another victim: “They talked in a bad way about Tamils, telling us we came from somewhere else and that we didn’t belong in Sri Lanka. They said that Sri Lanka belonged to the Sinhalese and not the Tamils”.
I will leave the ITJP publication to put in a personal note. I have been subjected to this type of abuse on numerous occasions in Australia for the past four decades. Every time I address a meeting on the Tamil struggle, I can expect a series of telephone calls from about 9 pm till morning and even after that.
Here is an example. I was invited to address the congregation in a Church, an ‘Information evening’, to deal with the plight of the Tamil people. I returned home and went to sleep because I had a medical clinic the following morning. Not a hope. At 10 pm the telephone rang “You mother-fucking Tamil Tiger, how much did the LTTE pay you for that talk?” I have learnt never to lose my cool. In a quiet voice I said, “Actually I am a Sinhalese and not a Tamil Tiger. I might add that the Tamil Tigers have done many things but not that particular act which you describe. I am also not paid by the Tamil Tigers or anyone else since I get enough money seeing patients”. So saying, I went back to sleep. 15 minutes later, there is another call, “You fucking Tamil cunt ….”. I replied quietly saying that they really have to get their human anatomy sorted out because what they have told me in the past few minutes is not anatomically possible.
Why don’t I take the phone off the hook? I cannot because I am on-call to a few hospitals. What amazes me about my former countrymen is that they are obsessed with sex. Perhaps they are sexual perverts as a series of ITJP publications have demonstrated.
Lord Reith, the founder of the BBC famously said, “There are some whom it is our duty to offend”. If I offend the racist Sinhala chauvinists, I am only doing my duty.
Chapter 7 – Surveillance and Informants
“What emerges from witness testimony is the continued use of informants and plain clothes intelligence officers, often with cameras, to surveil the Tamil population in the north and east and around the globe at diaspora events.”
I can confirm this. At the Church service that I addressed in Brisbane, Australia (which I have referred to earlier) a string of Sinhalese walked into the Church. I saw them videotaping me – not that it bothered me. I have no doubt that this was sent to Sri Lanka.
“The Sri Lankan security forces run a large network of informants in the Vanni in particular. This is a particularly pernicious practice as it heightens the suspicions and divisions within the Tamil community. A victim detained in 2015 described being asked to work for the intelligence services as a paid informer. He explained how he had been betrayed by another Tamil in his village”.
Here in Australia, two people from Sri Lanka had the audacity to come to see me trying to bribe me. It was a Sinhalese man (two of them) one of whom complained of chest pain. They carried a suitcase. Once they were in my consulting room, I asked them which one had the chest pain. I was taken aback when they said that neither of them had a problem. They gave me the suitcase and told me that it was for me. In it was a huge amount of Australian dollars. They said that if I agreed to work for the Sri Lankan government, that sum of money would be trebled. I told them to take their suitcase and its contents and get out of my surgery before I called the police.
“Families were shown photographs during 2016 of their children attending protest events abroad…..indicating that this kind of activity poses a significant risk for anyone likely to visit or be returned to Sri Lanka”.
Here is a victim: “My mother said that she has not seen me since I had been detained. They then showed her photographs of me participating in various TGTE (Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam) activities, including protests in the UK”.
Chapter 8 – Release
I will remind you again that this report is of events that have occurred after the Sirisena government took over from the Rajapaksas (January 2015).
“The releases in 2016-17 follow a standard practice, in keeping with hundreds of cases in previous years. Victims are given their clothes back and told to dress. They are never told that they are being released. In two cases the victim was tormented by being told he was being transferred to another notorious torture site (in Colombo) “the 4th Floor” of the CID (Criminal Investigation Department).
In several cases, security officials approached the victim for contact details of their relatives in order to broker their release for money. There is even bargaining over the size of the ransom.
The sums paid in 2016 varied from 2 lakhs of Sri Lankan rupees (US $ 1,316) to 50 lakhs (US $ 32,907). In some cases families do not tell victims the sums they have paid for fear of distressing them because they have been forced to borrow money, sell their jewellery and the last remaining land and possessions.
Some have paid much more. I have a Tamil friend in Sydney Australia, who had to sell an entire Unit to free up the money to get him and two Tamil girls out of the Sri Lankan Tamil areas. Once the Armed Forces realise that the victims have friends/relatives or property abroad, the sum demanded skyrockets.
Another Tamil friend, a doctor, asked his parents in Jaffna to bring down his wedding photograph from the wall to safeguard his presence in Australia.
Half (12) of the families paid bribes to the security forces through the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) which is a pro-government Tamil militia. This is consistent with previous ITJP findings.
Leave the country – Don’t come back
Seven of the 2016-17 victims said that they had been warned to leave the country. Here is a victim: “He told me: If you are caught again, you will be killed. It’s entirely up to you if you stay in this country, how you behave now. I don’t want to see you again. If we see you, we will kill you. Run away and escape”.
It is important that countries such as Australia and the UK who are returning asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka realise that they may be returning them to death. As I have said in my book on Sexual Violence of Tamils, in some countries, most certainly in the UK and probably in Australia, as soon as an asylum seeker is denied asylum and sent back to Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan Embassy is informed. This information is sent straight back to Sri Lanka so that when the person arrives in Colombo, there are people waiting to receive them. Many have been provided free transport in a white van to places like Joseph Camp. It is, of course, a gross violation of the UN Refugee Convention, signed and ratified by these countries.
Chapter 9 – Alleged Perpetrators
Senior Officers present
“Eight witnesses believe senior officers saw them in detention in 2016. This indicates the ongoing violations are not merely organised crimes within the low ranks of the security forces. One witness described a military officer with three stars on his uniform which denotes a Brigadier”
Turning to face the wall
“Three victims from Joseph Camp gave identical descriptions of an important commander coming into the room. He was ordered to turn and face the wall. The fact that the officer had to hide his face from the detainees in itself suggests a sensitivity about being identified”.
Here is a victim: “…..there was another Sri Lankan Army officer dressed in a green army uniform. On one side at the top of his chest were coloured square boxes. Below this here was a gold medal attached to his uniform.”
Chapter 10 – Human Smuggling
“Some victims fled by boat from Mannar but several left through the international airport in Colombo with the help of “agents or human smugglers”.
Corruption at the airport
“Eight victims describe being told to go through specific counters for immigration at Colombo Airport during 2016/17, indicating corruption amongst immigration officials remains fairly rampant.”
Here is a victim describing his exit: “the agent who had travelled with me, told me to go to one particular immigration counter, and follow instructions closely; I was not to speak with him. At the counter nothing was asked, and it was clear to me that everything had been arranged. We went to the counter that he had arranged before. He just stamped my passport………The EPDP man left when i went I went to the counter. The Immigration officer said I shouldn’t come to this country again unless I have a British passport or I will have problems”.
President Sirisena’s office is not too far from the airport. He might like to go and see what is going on in his airport. The airport officials might well ‘face the wall’ when they see their President coming (as do victims in Joseph Camp when a senior military officer arrives).
The smuggling routes – The nightmare journey
The smuggling routes are as much of a nightmare as the journey out of Sri Lanka.
Here is a victim: “I flew from Colombo to Teheran, then drove for two days, then walked for almost two months to Greece, where the police captured me. The Greek authorities registered me and let me go. I walked with five Syrian families helping them to carry their small children and arrived in Switzerland”.
Another victim described a hair-raising journey by boat to Rameshwaren in India, a 12 hour journey to Chennai, a flight to Mumbai, then Jet air to Paris. Finally he was smuggled into the UK in the boot of a car that travelled on Eurostar