9 August, 2022


Sri Lanka: Australia Should Raise Torture Concerns

(Melbourne) – Australia’s immigration minister should raise concerns with Sri Lankan officials about alleged arbitrary arrest and torture of people who were refused asylum and sent back to Sri Lanka when he visits this week, the Human Rights Law Centre and Human Rights Watch said today.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka from May 2 to 4, 2012, to discuss migration issues, including preventing people smuggling from Sri Lanka to Australia. Bowen has said, “Australia will continue working closely with Sri Lanka on issues relating to people smuggling, including preventing and disrupting people smuggling ventures by air and sea.” The Human Rights Law Centre and Human Rights Watch called on Bowen and all senior Australian officials to ensure that respect for human rights and accountability for human rights violations are central to all discussions with their Sri Lankan counterparts.

“Rejected asylum seekers returned to Sri Lanka have been subject to arbitrary detention, torture, and other serious human rights abuses,” said Phil Lynch, executive director of the Human Rights Law Centre. “Efforts to counter and prevent people-smuggling should seek to protect asylum seekers, and shouldn’t interfere with their right to seek asylum.”

Australia cooperates closely with Sri Lanka on addressing people-smuggling. The Sri Lankan Department of Immigration and Emigration receives Australian aid, and Australia’s last federal budget included almost AU$11 million to deploy Australian federal police officers to Sri Lanka and other countries to “combat people smuggling.”

The Human Rights Law Centre and Human Rights Watch urged both governments to make certain that they do not undermine legal protections for asylum seekers in their efforts to counter people-smuggling. Human Rights Watch has documented at least eight cases in which people who had unsuccessfully sought asylum in the UK were returned to Sri Lanka and endured serious human rights abuses, including torture and rape. Some said they were beaten with batons and burned with cigarettes.

The Edmund Rice Center in Australia similarly documented in May 2010 that asylum seekers returned to Sri Lanka were handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department, the Sri Lankan police, and taken into custody. Some have been detained and assaulted.

In March an Australian citizen, Premakumar Gunaratnam, who was trying to form a political party in Sri Lanka, alleged that he was picked up and tortured in custody. Sri Lankan authorities subsequently deported him to Australia.

The United Nations Committee against Torture found in November 2011 that torture and ill-treatment in Sri Lanka are “widespread and persistent.” It stated that, “[The] continued and consistent allegations of widespread use of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of suspects in police custody, especially to extract confessions or information to be used in criminal proceedings. The Committee is further concerned at reports that suggest that torture and ill-treatment perpetrated by state actors, both the military and the police, have continued in many parts of the country after the conflict ended in May 2009 and is still occurring in 2011.”

“Australia should ensure that human rights concerns and safeguards are paramount in any security, intelligence, and migration cooperation with Sri Lanka,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Australia is prohibited under the Refugees Convention and international human rights law from sending anyone to a country where they face torture and ill-treatment.”

Immigration Minister Bowen should also raise Australia’s broader concerns about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka during his visit, the organizations said. Specifically he should ask what the Sri Lankan government is doing to investigate and prosecute alleged war crimes during Sri Lanka’s 26-year-long conflict, which ended three years ago.

In March the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on Sri Lanka showing strong international support for accountability for abuses committed by all sides to the conflict. The resolution calls upon the Sri Lankan government to fulfill its legal obligations toward justice and accountability, to expeditiously provide a comprehensive action plan to carry out the recommendations of its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and to address alleged violations of international law. It also encourages the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN human rights envoys to assist Sri Lanka in implementing these steps.

“Bowen should make it crystal clear though public and private statements that Australia supports international efforts at accountability, and that Sri Lanka has failed to deliver,” Lynch said. “In particular, Bowen should ask what efforts have been made to implement the UN Human Rights Council resolution to ensure justice for the numerous atrocities that occurred during the conflict.”

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Latest comments

  • 0

    there are more than 220 countries in thw world
    they are worried about HR violations of 5 countries
    Cuba, Iran, North Korea, China, Sri Lanka
    taken Mynmar out of the list since western stooge was elected in by election
    No human right violations ever occur in Gaza?
    millions death in Iraq on illegal war NO HUMAN RIGHT VIOLATIONS?/\illegally occupying these ountries based on pack of lies.
    hundred thousands deaths in Afghanistan another illegal war
    more than 10 thousands death iin Libya after pillar and rape of Libya and getting rid of Gadafi
    160millions dalit or untouchables in India subject to dehumanising treatment by higher caste Indians
    but Since India has had become lapdog of western countries no human right abuses raised by these hypocrites
    Totally silient human right abuses in BAHRAIN EGYPT SAUDI ARABIA, JORDAN, POST GADDAFI
    unarmed OBL was shot front of his wife and children..

    ———————- I mean can you imagine the west saing GADDAFI
    is now a good guy and he can sit one the UN Human rights council..—— no wait did that happen… By the same Report that gave him a clean chit.

  • 0

    there concern is okay my friend. Don’t worry this is not to dig the past but make sure there are no new things going to happen. They want to make our country like UK, Australia or may be Europe. Let them do whatever they want. relax

    • 0

      @Bodinayaka…They want to make our country like UK, Australia or may be Europe.. GOD help us if we do these are the same nations that spill Oceans of Blood in other peoples nations.. and during the elections of those nations always Playes the Immigrant card to stir up the racist elements.. The nations who use white planes to take peole form other nations to their allies to be totured.. Who kisses and takes money of a leader today and tomorrow calls him a tyrant and kills him.. NO THANKS BUDDY. we should find our own way.. We dont want to replace one evil for a GREATER EVIL.

      • 0

        spank you for educating me , and keeping eyes and ears open for me my friend.

        • 0

          @Bodinayaka.. Well when we are wrong we must ponit these facts out to each other. But will be watching out for you thanks

  • 0

    …with a 2500 year old civilization, we are the one’s who should pinpoint HR violations in other countries and raise such valuable arguments… but we are poor, powerless, hopeless, vulnerable and marginalized now…. maybe our civilization may die as did the Sumerian, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greek & Roman civilizations…. maybe we can perhaps revive it with fresh perspectives on LIFE… we can perhaps be reborn… our govt.s must go back to what they were in the basics, the LAW & ORDER part and let the market (private enterprise) handle the balance… Our Law & Order is deteriorating…. because the Govt has got its hands in numerous other things… hence the contracts, commissions, cut backs, and so on… our representatives have been given too much power without holding some back with us the voter, taxpayer and the citizen… We need to rise to the occasion and size up
    to the current situation… democracy may have to evolve to retrieve some of the power that’s being taken away from us… such as the direct election of the Supreme Court and the Auditors by the people…

  • 0

    There is no question that Human Rights Watch practices double standards, as do the UN and its many agencies and INGOs/NGOs. That is why they single out specific countries to lecture them or apply pressure on, depending on their attitudes towards the perpetrators of the worst atrocities by man to their fellow man.

    The US nuked Japan (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and instantly killed millions in order to “teach them a lesson”…Japanese babies are still born with horrendous deformities… The US napalmed Vietnam and much of Cambodia and Laos, simply to ‘deter’ them from falling like dominoes to China’s “red peril” and killed several million and caused severe genetic mutations and deformities extending to the present day.

    The US/UK alliance white-phosphorused, cluster-bombed, used depleted tipped missiles in exterminating two million Iraqis, whereas Iraq had absolutely no role in anything against these countries.. Some members of the EU decapitated Libya and appropriated their oil. Plans are in place to nuke Iran on behalf of Israel. Human Rights????

    This is not to say that some governments of developing or third-world countries are regressive and ill-treat their own citizens in order to hold absolute power over their lives and control their money. The people themselves must elect good governments and think maturely and in the long term…

  • 0

    How about Sri Lanka asking about how Australia Treat Aboriginies – highest percentage of imprisonment, highest rate unemployment, poverty and police brutality are among and for aborginies.

    What is the reason ?

  • 0

    Spank you for your kind thoughts Mr. sjv chelvanayakam. May the God’s bless you for eternity and beyond.

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