Sri Lanka State Terrorism
Rape & Murder of Eelam Tamil Women
Amnesty Report on Rapes in Custody :March/July
28 January 2002
Sinnathamby Sivamany (aged 24) and Ehamparam Wijikala (aged 22), two
Tamil women internally displaced by the ongoing armed conflict in
the north and east of Sri Lanka, were arrested by members of the
navy in the coastal city of Mannar on 19 March 2001. They were
subsequently raped by navy personnel and members of the Special
Investigation Unit (SIU) of the police at the office of the
Counter-Subversive Unit (CSU) of the police along Pallimunai Road,
approximately 500 metres outside Mannar town.
Ehamparam Wijikala’s partner and the 6-year-old son of Sinnathamby
Sivamany were also taken into custody. They were all taken to the
CSU office in a white van. Ehamparam Wijikala, in a petition to the
Supreme Court, alleges that she and her partner were taken inside
the CSU office. Her partner was locked in a cell, she was taken into
a separate room. The Officer-in-Charge (OIC) was also there in the
room. He asked her to sit on the floor and she complied. The OIC
then asked a male police officer named Rajah to bring a piece of
cloth. Rajah blindfolded her with the piece of cloth. She was told
to remove her clothes. When she refused she was beaten and her
clothes were forcibly removed by them. Then, while some of them held
her hands and legs one person got on top of her, soon afterwards
followed by another one. She said they both raped her.
Sinnathamby Sivamany has testified that soon after Ehamparam
Wijikala and her partner had been taken into the CSU office, a navy
personnel came to the van and took away her son. Another navy
officer then climbed into the van and blindfolded her with a sock
aided by the driver of the van. Then this officer forcibly removed
her clothes and raped her. After about 15 minutes he left the van.
Some time after that she was taken inside the CSU office to the room
in which Ehamparam Wijikala was being held and the security forces
personnel present there beat her demanding that she remove her
clothes. When she refused, Rajah ordered Ehamparam Wijikala to
remove Sinnathamby Sivamany’s clothes. Both women were made to
parade naked in front of the men. They were then made to sit in a
crouched position; their hands and legs were tied and attached to a
pole which was then placed between two tables so they were left
hanging. They were in this position for about 90 minutes and were
pinched and beaten with a thick wire during that time.
The victims were threatened with further torture unless they signed
a statement admitting they were members of the Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the armed political group which for nearly two
decades has been fighting for autonomy for the Tamil community
living in the north and east of Sri Lanka.
Both women signed such statements.
Sinnathamby Sivamany and Ehamparam Wijikala were taken to the
District Medical Officer (DMO) of Mannar district on 22 March. It is
not clear why the police did this but it may have been an attempt to
pervert any future investigations. Apparently due to threats from
the CSU officers taking them to hospital and the fact that the
officers remained present throughout the time in the DMO’s office,
both women refused to be examined. In his medico-legal examination
form of 22 March 2001, however, the DMO ticked the "no injuries" box
instead of indicating that he in fact had not carried out any
The two women were produced before the local magistrate at his
bungalow on 27 March -- eight days after their arrest. They were
produced around 6.30pm, i.e. after court hours. They were reportedly
told by police officers accompanying them that they were being taken
to a senior police officer and warned not to complain or otherwise
they (i.e. the women) would be punished. As the magistrate was not
wearing his official robe and was not at the court house, it was
impossible for the women who were not from the area to be sure where
they had been taken.
On the instructions of the magistrate and after the case had
attracted a lot of publicity and non-governmental organizations and
church leaders raised concern, the women were once again taken to
the DMO for a medical examination on 30 March. This time, the DMO
found marks on their bodies, including semi-circular abrasions
consistent with nail marks on the elbows, forearms and wrists of
Ehamparam Wijikala. He concluded that she had been tortured and
raped and that Sinnathamby Sivamany was tortured and sexually
assaulted. Rape could not be established. The magistrate later
ordered an examination by a Judicial Medical Officer (JMO, senior to
a DMO) in Colombo after the prison authorities informed him that the
two women alleged they were raped. The JMO carried out his
examination 18 days after the rape. He confirmed several injuries
sustained due to the alleged torture inflicted on them and concluded
that while "there were no positive findings to establish sexual
intercourse", it "cannot be ruled out as the absence of positive
findings may be due to the fact that [they were] married with
children and [that there had been a] 18 day delay" from the time of
the alleged rape to the time of the examinations.
Although the magistrate had ordered the police to investigate the
allegations of rape and arrest the suspects, local police had not
acted on his instructions. After widespread protests, and after the
then Minister of Justice and Chairman of the Committee to Inquire
into Undue Arrest and Harassment ordered the police to investigate
and arrest the suspects, police finally took action. (1) Twelve
police officers and two navy officers were arrested. They were
identified by the women during an identification parade. At the time
of writing, no charges had been filed and the preliminary trial
proceedings had not started. All alleged perpetrators had been
released on bail. It is feared that in this case, like many other
similar ones, those allegedly responsible for rape in custody will
never be brought to justice.
Rape - a common human rights violation
In Sri Lanka, like in many other countries, incidents of rape in the
context of armed conflict such as the above examples are reported on
a regular basis.(2) During 2001, Amnesty International has noted
a marked rise in allegations of rape by police, army and navy
personnel. (See Appendix
for details of some cases reported recently.)
Among the victims of rape by the security forces are many internally
displaced women, women who admit being or having been members of the
LTTE and female relatives of members or suspected male members of
the LTTE. Some reports of rape in custody concern children as young
as 14 (See Case No. 5, Thangiah Vijayalalitha, Appendix 1).
Complaints of rape, like other complaints of torture, are often not
effectively dealt with by police, magistrates or doctors.
Deficiencies in the early stages of the criminal investigation
process have repeatedly contributed to the ultimate collapse of the
investigation of the alleged rape and the prosecution of the alleged
Alarmed at the apparent rise in reports of rape, Amnesty
International on 4 April 2001 wrote to the President of Sri Lanka
urging her to take action to stop rape by security forces and bring
perpetrators to justice. The appeal followed reports of rape by
security forces in Mannar, Batticaloa, Negombo and Jaffna, including
the rape of Sinnathamby Sivamany and Ehamparam Wijikala described
above. To date, no response has been received to the appeal.
In March 2000, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence
against women (hereafter the Special Rapporteur), who herself is a
Sri Lankan national, expressed grave concern over the lack of
serious investigation into allegations of gang rape and murder of
women and girls. The Special Rapporteur expressed the hope that
every effort would be made to prevent further violations through the
investigation of alleged incidents and the prosecution of alleged
perpetrators in a manner consistent with international human rights
standards. In its response, the government provided details
regarding the progress of investigations into two of four individual
cases raised by the Special Rapporteur. It also stated that "every
case of alleged criminal conduct committed by the armed forces and
police has been investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted,
although there may have been unavoidable legal delays". (3) Contrary
to the government’s assertion, to Amnesty International’s knowledge,
not a single member of the security forces has been brought to trial
in connection to incidents of rape in custody although one
successful prosecution has been brought in a case where the victim
of rape was also murdered. An analysis of the cases in which
investigations were conducted and trial proceedings initiated
suggests that the authorities are far more inclined to take action
if there is a considerable amount of public pressure.
The crime of rape and its prohibition in law
Under international law, rape committed by government officials or
armed political groups during armed conflict constitutes torture.
Although there was no definition of rape included in the UN
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment adopted in 1984, over the years it has
become accepted that rape is a form of torture. The UN Special
Rapporteur on torture in 1992 stated that "[s]ince it was clear that
rape or other forms of sexual assault against women in detention
were a particularly ignominious violation of the inherent dignity
and the right to physical integrity of the human being, they
accordingly constituted an act of torture." (4) Rape and other
serious sexual assault have also long been recognized as breaches of
international humanitarian law. They are now recognized as a war
crime and, when committed on a systematic basis or large scale, a
crime against humanity. As such, it is subject to universal
Amnesty International also notes that the Committee for the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW),
the treaty body monitoring the implementation of the UN Convention
of the same name, has identified "gender-based violence as a form of
discrimination that seriously inhibits women's ability to enjoy
rights and freedoms on a basis of equality with men...". The
Committee has added that: "The definition of discrimination includes
gender-based violence, that is, violence that is directed against a
woman because she is a woman or that affects women
disproportionately. It includes acts that inflict physical, mental,
or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and
other deprivations of liberty." (6) CEDAW has also expressed concern
about acts of custodial rape on many occasions. (7)
In Sri Lanka, in 1995 and 1998, through the Penal Code (Amendment)
Act Nos. 22 of 1995 and 29 of 1998, the Code of Criminal Procedure
(Amendment) Act, No. 28 of 1998; the Judicature (Amendment) Act, No.
27 of 1998 and the Evidence (Special Provision) Act of 1999, the
government has put in place a legal framework which in principle
should allow a more effective prosecution of alleged rapists.
Among the changes to the Penal Code was the inclusion of a new
provision (Section 364(2)) recognizing the phenomena of rape in
custody and gang rape as acts constituting grave crimes. The minimum
and maximum punishment for rape in custody as a form of aggravated
rape is 10 years’ and 20 years’ imprisonment respectively.
In addition, Sri Lanka is a party to the UN Convention against
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or
Punishment. It acceded to the Convention in 1994 and an Act was
passed in parliament in November 1994 giving effect to Sri Lanka’s
obligations under the Convention. The Act made torture punishable by
imprisonment for a term not less than seven years and not exceeding
ten years, and a fine.
As stated above, despite these welcome changes to the legal
framework, no perpetrators of rape in custody have so far been
brought to justice. In relation to both torture and rape, Amnesty
International is concerned about the failure of the authorities to
bring to justice those members of the security forces suspected of
being responsible for torture, including rape, in custody. In
relation to torture, for instance, the government in mid-June 2001
announced that seven indictments had been presented to the High
Courts with regard to the alleged perpetration of torture and that
the "Prosecution of Torture Perpetrators Unit" in the Attorney
General’s department had in addition processed investigative
material in another six cases. However, despite these initiatives,
the fact remains that to date no one has been found guilty by a
court of law in relation to charges of torture or rape in custody in
The new government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe which came
to power after winning parliamentary elections in early December
2001 has not so far made any policy announcements affecting the
issues described in this document. However, the election manifesto
of the main political party in power, the United National Party,
contains commitments to "enact laws relating to the Women’s Charter
to safeguard women’s rights" and to "ensure that women’s particular
requirements and gender-specific concerns are recognized and
prioritized in the formulation of state policies."
Preventive measures and remedies against rape: their strengths and
In addition to the introduction of legal provisions making rape in
custody an offence punishable by between ten and 20 years’
imprisonment, several other measures have been taken which aim to
strengthen the legal and institutional framework for the protection
In 1993, a Women’s Charter was adopted and a National Committee on
Women was established. In September 1993, special units in major
police divisions’ head offices were created for the prevention and
detection of violence against women and children. However, most of
these additional measures have been primarily focussed at the
prevention and investigation of rape in society at large, not in
relation to rape in custody.
There are some preventive measures and remedies in place which in
principle should assist in the effective prevention, investigation
and ultimately prosecution of the alleged perpetrators of rape in
Among the measures introduced to prevent torture, "disappearances"
and other human rights violations were directions to the heads of
the security forces first issued by the President of Sri Lanka of 18
July 1995 with the aim of safeguarding the welfare of detainees. (8)
One of these presidential directions apparently also specifically
aimed to prevent rape. It provided that when a child under 12 or a
woman was sought to be arrested or detained, a person of her choice
should be allowed to accompany her to the place of questioning and
as far as possible a woman detainee should be placed in the custody
of a women’s unit of the relevant security forces or in the custody
of a woman military or police officer. Under the emergency
regulations in force at the time (Emergency (Miscellaneous
Provisions and Powers) Regulations No. 4 of 1994), any contravention
of, or failure to comply with, the requirement of an emergency
regulation was an offence. In July 1997, after the National Human
Rights Commission (NHRC) was established, the President re-issued
these directions to the armed forces and police. However, while the
original presidential directions of 1995 had been, at least on
paper, enforceable by virtue of the fact that they had been issued
under emergency regulations, there are no means by which the 1997
directions can be enforced.
Some of the safeguards in the 1997 presidential directions, such as
one requiring that the NHRC is informed of all arrests, detentions,
transfers and releases of people held under the Prevention of
Terrorism Act or emergency regulations, have been introduced into
law and made enforceable under the Human Rights Commission of Sri
Lanka Act, 1996. However, the safeguards relevant for the treatment
of women and children have not so far been set out in law.
Under Article 126 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka, victims of
torture can file fundamental rights petitions in the Supreme Court
of Sri Lanka. Over the last few years, the court has regularly
awarded compensation to the victims and has directed the Inspector
General of Police and Attorney General to "take such action as
deemed appropriate" against the perpetrators and to report on the
action taken. (9) To date, very few victims of rape have filed
fundamental rights petitions. (10) It also has to be pointed out
that such action by the court does not automatically result in
prosecution of the alleged perpetrators, but solely in the awarding
of monetary compensation.
Why criminal investigations into rape remain unsuccessful
The most important reason for the lack of successful prosecutions of
those allegedly responsible for rape in custody is that those
responsible for the investigation (i.e. the police) are colleagues
of the alleged perpetrators. As stated in the Amnesty International
report Sri Lanka: Torture in custody (AI Index: ASA 37/10/99) of
June 1999, "in order to eradicate torture ... there remains a need
to establish a simple procedure which allows torture by the police
or other law enforcement personnel to be investigated by an
independent authority with the necessary powers and expertise
required to ensure prosecutions for torture can be successfully
brought". This is equally valid in relation to rape in custody.
There are many additional reasons why criminal investigations into
complaints of rape are generally unsuccessful. Among them are:
- threats by the perpetrators against the victim and/or the
- inadequate medical evidence due to poor quality of initial medical
examination (in itself sometimes caused by threats to the doctor) or
due to delay in taking the victim to a doctor;
- lack of independence of the investigating authority: police
investigating police or members of the security forces;
- slow action by the local authority (normally the police) to
- political or other pressure brought to bear on the investigators;
- the victim withdraws the complaint or stops her cooperation with
the investigations, under pressure from her family or community in
the context of a traditional stigma associated with rape;
- transfer of the case to a court a long distance away from the
- the police fears to act against alleged perpetrators belonging to
the security forces.
Below are some examples of how these issues have arisen over the
last few years.
Ida Carmelita was a former member of the LTTE who had surrendered to
the police about a month before she was gang raped and killed by
five soldiers at Pallimunai, Mannar district on 12 July 1999. She
had been shot through her vagina. In his report, the DMO in Mannar
documented evidence of rape and sexual violence, including bites on
her breasts and lips. Two of the suspects had been recognized by a
neighbour and another by the brother of the victim. A corporal and a
soldier were identified at an identification parade by witnesses and
taken into custody. However, after two key witnesses were threatened
and subsequently fled to India, the case is no longer proceeding.
The suspects have been released on bail.
The UN Special Rapporteur in March 2000 highlighted the case of
Sarathambal Saravanbavananthakurukal, a 29-year-old Tamil woman who
had been reportedly gang raped and then killed by navy soldiers on
28 December 1999 in Pungudutivu, near Jaffna. She observed that
despite an order by the President of Sri Lanka to immediately
investigate the events, it was reported that "very little [was]
being done to pursue the matter". Sarathambal
Saravanbavananthakurukal had been abducted from her home, situated
at about 500m from a navy camp. Her father and brother were tied up
by four security officers dressed in black. Her dead body was found
on barren land about 100m away from their home the next day. After
public protest, her body was sent to Colombo for post-mortem by a
senior JMO who indicated that the cause of death was "asphyxia due
to gagging"; that her underpants had been stuffed inside her mouth;
and that "forcible sexual intercourse" had taken place. The father
and brother were allegedly threatened not to reveal the identity of
the four men who came to the house. According to the Director of the
Criminal Investigation Department, who had been instructed by the
President of Sri Lanka to investigate the rape and murder, the
brother had "not been able to identify any of the four persons who
came to the house".
The criminal investigations into the rape and murder of both Ida
Carmelita and Sarathambal Saravanbavananthakurukal have not
proceeded beyond the initial inquiry stage. No charges have been
filed against the alleged perpetrators and it is unlikely that those
responsible for the rape and murder of the two women will ever be
brought to justice.
Seventy-year-old Poomani Saravanai, an internally displaced widow,
was raped by two soldiers at Neervely, Jaffna district in front of
her son on 31 May 2000. The next day, she courageously made a
complaint at the Atchelu army camp. She was able to identify the two
soldiers on that day. It is reported that they were sacked from the
army. However, nothing further was done at this crucial initial
stage. It was not until 5 and 6 June that Poomani Saravanai was
taken to a DMO. By then no evidence of rape could be found. To
Amnesty International’s knowledge, the police did not initiate any
action against the two soldiers.
Conclusions and recommendations
Amnesty International welcomes Sri Lanka’s ratification of the UN
Convention against Torture and its incorporation into national law,
the amendments to the relevant provisions of the Penal Code and
other laws relating to rape and rape in custody and various other
measures introduced to prevent rape and hold those responsible
accountable. However, further steps are needed to ensure a change on
First and foremost, the government should put in place an
investigative body fully independent of the police with the
necessary powers and expertise required to open criminal
investigations whenever there is reasonable ground to believe that
an act of torture, including rape, has been committed.
In addition to the recommendations made by the Committee against
Torture, the treaty body set up under the UN Convention against
Torture, after it examined Sri Lanka’s initial report in May 1998
(see Appendix 2) and those set out in the Amnesty International
report: Sri Lanka: Torture in custody which set out a program of
action for the prevention of torture in general and its effective
investigation, prosecution and reparation, Amnesty International is
making the following recommendations specifically intended to
prevent rape in custody and increase accountability for it:
1. Official condemnation
The government should send a clear, public message to all security
forces personnel emphasizing that rape and other serious sexual
violence in custody always constitutes torture and that perpetrators
of such offences will be brought to justice and face appropriate
The government should ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN
Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women to
offer women a direct means to seek redress at the international
level for violations of their rights under the Convention. This
includes their right not to suffer discrimination through the use of
gender-based violence, including torture and cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment or punishment.
3. Introduce effective measures to prevent rape
The government should introduce effective measures to prevent rape
and make them legally enforceable, with adequate punishment for
non-adherence. These safeguards could include those set out in the
Presidential directions issued in July 1995. They should ensure that
the arrest of a woman is carried out by a female officers (whenever
practicable), that women detainees are kept in the custody of female
officers, that female guards should be present during the
interrogation of female detainees and should be made solely
responsible for carrying out body searches.
4. Strengthen the institutional framework to protect women’s rights
The government should consider setting up a Women’s Commission with
powers similar to other constitutional or statutory bodies, such as
the NHRC. Pending its establishment, another body such as the NHRC
or the Women’s Committee should assess current practice regarding
the confinement of women in police stations and other places of
detention and make recommendations for measures to be taken to
prevent gender-based violence against women, including torture and
cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
5. Review the role of the medical profession in relation to rape in
The government should review the role of the medical profession and
consider all necessary measures to improve the training of JMOs and
particularly DMOs. It should ensure that their examination of
victims of rape and the medico-legal documentation used conforms to
the Istanbul Protocol’s Principles on the Effective Investigation
and Documentation of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment.
6. Review the role of magistrates
The government should review the role of magistrates and consider
all necessary measures to ensure their role in relation to the
prevention and investigation of torture, including rape is made
effective, in accordance with international obligations such as
Articles 2, 11 and 16 of the UN Convention against Torture.
7. Ensure the safety of victims and witnesses
All necessary measures should be taken to protect the victims and
witnesses of rape. This should include the suspension of any
security officers suspected of rape or of encouraging or condoning
it, from duties where they are responsible for the custody of
detainees, especially female detainees.
8. Prosecute and punish
The government should undertake a comprehensive review of the
current legal and institutional framework relating to rape in
custody to ensure a more effective investigation and prosecution of
Appendix 1: Some
recent reports of rape in custody
Thambipillai Thanalakshmi, 42-year-old Tamil woman from
Meesalai, Jaffna district was reportedly dragged from her home
at around 8.30pm on 7 July 2001 by soldiers allegedly attached
to the Kachchai army camp. They took her to a nearby rice field
where she was raped by at least three of them.
Thambipillai Thanalakshmi’s mother tried to intervene after
hearing her daughter screaming, but was assaulted and hit with
rifles by the soldiers. Thambipillai Thanalakshmi and her mother
had been displaced from their home and had returned to resettle,
only two months before the incident. On the next morning, they
lodged a complaint at Kachchai army camp and at Kodikamam police
Police from Kodikamam visited the scene and reportedly recovered
parts of Thambipillai Thanalakshmi’s clothing from the rice
field. Even though they had gone to the army camp early in the
morning, it was not until around 6.30pm on 8 July that
Thambipillai Thanalakshmi was taken by police to the Mantikai
hospital for medical examination. Medical personnel there
reportedly confirmed evidence of rape.
After an intervention by senior police in Colombo, three
soldiers were arrested and produced before the magistrate on 13
July. At the time of writing, to Amnesty International’s
knowledge, no charges had been filed against them.
2. Velu Arshadevi
Velu Arshadevi, a Tamil woman of Indian origin, who was
living in a boarding house in Colombo, was allegedly raped by
three policemen on 24 June 2001.
She had been stopped at a checkpoint on the Maradana - Borella
Road, Colombo on 23 June 2001 while she was returning from work
with a friend. Her identity was checked by the security forces
personnel on duty at the checkpoint. The next day, at around
3am, two police personnel without weapons and an armed soldier
attached to that checkpoint came to the lodgings where the
victim was staying. They said they had come for a "routine
checking". After interrogating all the persons staying at that
place, they returned to her room and told her that "since was a
Tamil, she was not allowed to stay" there. She was told she had
to go with them to the Maradana police station. The friend who
had also been staying in the same place accompanied her for
While en route to the police station, they stopped at the
Maradana - Borella Road
checkpoint. Her friend was told to purchase some tea for the
security forces and sent away. After he had gone, two police
personnel took her to a staircase situated next to a bunker
below road level. She was taken down there and made to lean
against the wall and then raped.
Later that day, she made a complaint to the Maradana police
station. The Officer-in-Charge produced her before the JMO on
the same day. In his medical report, the JMO confirmed that rape
had taken place.
After an identification parade was held by police, three police
officers and three soldiers were arrested in connection with
this crime. They have since been released on bail. To Amnesty
International’s knowledge, no charges have been filed against
the alleged perpetrators.
Mahendiran Nageswari, 37-year-old female from Kaluthawalai,
was sexually abused by personnel of the Special Task Force (STF,
paramilitary police unit) attached to the STF camp at
Kaluthawalai, and admitted to the Batticaloa teaching hospital.
According to the police post at the hospital, this matter was
reported to the Kaluwanchikudy police station for further
inquiries. It is alleged that the STF personnel went to her
house and harassed her with the intention of molesting her.
Vijayaratnam Subashini, an 19-year-old Tamil woman, was
reportedly sexually assaulted by more than ten navy personnel,
on 20 April 2001.
According to the reports received by Amnesty International,
Vijayaratnam Subashini was on an LTTE boat returning from the
open sea when several Sri Lanka navy gunboats surrounded them.
There was fierce fighting for several hours. Vijayaratnam
Subashini and many others jumped in the sea, after their boats
were damaged, and then she was taken into one of the navy
gunboats. Immediately after she got in the gunboat, all her
clothes were removed, she was blindfolded and her hands were
tied behind her back. More the ten navy personnel touched and
squeezed her breasts, and her genital area. They allegedly also
one by one put their fingers inside her vagina, while she was
screaming. The whole ordeal lasted about two hours. When the
boat reached Trincomalee her clothes were given to her. She is
currently held without charge or trial at Welikade women’s
To Amnesty International’s knowledge, no investigation has
been held into this allegation.
Thangiah Vijayalalitha, a 14-year-old Tamil girl, was
sexually assaulted by more than ten navy personnel on 20 April
2001 when she was taken into custody during an LTTE operation in
the open sea (see also the above case, no. 4, Vijayaratnam
Thangiah Vijayalalitha was reportedly taken into a navy gunboat
and her skirt and bra were removed. When the boat reached
Trincomalee her clothes were returned to her. She is currently
held without charge or trial at Welikade women’s prison,
Sinnathamby Sivamany (f) and
Sinnathamby Sivamany (aged 24) and Ehamparam Wijikala (aged
22) were arrested by members of the navy on 19 March 2001. They
allege they were subsequently raped by navy and SIU personnel at
the office of the CSU outside Mannar town.
For more details, see page 1 above.
Yogalingam Vijitha is a 27-year-old Tamil woman from Kayts,
Jaffna district. She was allegedly tortured, including raped
with a plantain tree flower (hard cone-like, approximately
8-inch long) while in detention in the Negombo police station,
between 21 and 27 June 2000.
According to the reports, she was beaten with poles on her
knees, back, chest and the lower abdomen. She was trampled with
boots on. She was forced to lie on a table and pins were
inserted under the nails of her fingers and toes. She was
slapped on her ears. On another occasion all her clothing,
except her underwear, was removed and her face was covered with
a polythene bag filled with chilli powder and petrol. Then she
was asked to sign a statement written in Sinhalese, but when she
refused, a plantain tree flower sprinkled with chilli powder was
inserted into her vagina. After about 15 minutes, she fainted.
The victim claims she can identify at least one of the policemen
who tortured her in the Negombo police station. She was produced
in the Colombo Chief Magistrate Court, on 21 July 2000, and the
magistrate ordered that she be examined by the JMO, Colombo
North. The medical report confirmed that there had been vaginal
penetration, that there "many scars on her limbs and torso" and
that she was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and
depression, all of which could have resulted from the torture
inflicted on her as alleged.
A fundamental rights petition was filed in March 2001 and is
awaiting judgement at the time of writing. In the meantime,
Yogalingam Vijitha was unconditionally released on 26 April
Appendix 2: Subjects of concern and recommendations of the
Committee against Torture (extract from UN Document:
CAT/C/SR.341 of 26 May 1998)
D. Subjects of concern
14. The Committee is gravely concerned by information on serious
violations of the Convention, particularly regarding torture linked
15. The Committee regrets that there were few if any prosecutions or
disciplinary proceedings despite continuous Supreme Court warnings
and awards of damages to torture victims.
16. The Committee notes the absence, until recently, of independent
and effective investigation of scores of allegations of
disappearances linked with torture.
17. The Committee noted that, while the CAT Act 24/94 covers most of
the provisions of the Convention, there were certain significant
18. The question of the admissibility under the emergency
regulations of confessions is also a matter of concern as well as
the absence of strict legislation governing detention consistent
with international norms.
19. The Committee urges the State party to review the CAT Act
22/94 and other relevant laws in order to ensure complete compliance
with the Convention, in particular in respect of: (a) the definition
of torture; (b) acts that amount to torture and (c) extradition,
return and expulsion.
20. Review the emergency regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism
Act as well as rules of practice pertaining to detention to ensure
that they conform with the provisions of the Convention.
21. Ensure that all allegations of torture, past, present and
future, are promptly, independently and effectively investigated and
the recommendations implemented without any delay.
22. While continuing to remedy, through compensation, the
consequences of torture, due importance should be given to prompt
criminal prosecutions and disciplinary proceedings against culprits.
23. Take the necessary measures to ensure that justice is not
delayed especially in the cases of trials of people accused of
24. Strengthen the Human Rights Commission and other mechanisms for
dealing with torture prevention and investigation, and provide them
with all the means that are necessary to ensure their impartiality
25. Urges the State party to declare in favour of articles 21 and 22
of the Convention.
26. The Committee would be remiss if it did not acknowledge that the
Sri Lankan delegation made every effort to make the dialogue with
the Committee fruitful, so that thereby the State party would be
helped to put an end to violations of this Convention.
1. The Committee to Inquire into Undue Arrest and Harassment,
comprising five ministers and three members of parliament, was
set up in July 1998 by the President of Sri Lanka.
2. See Amnesty International report, Sri Lanka: Torture in
custody (AI Index: ASA 37/10/99) of June 1999 for more details
on key aspects of torture, including rape and deaths in custody.
The paper comments on the legal, institutional and political
factors which allow these human rights violations to happen and
impede victims and their relatives from obtaining redress. It
also includes a set of recommendations to the Sri Lankan
authorities to protect people in custody from torture. The
current report should be read in conjunction with the
3. See UN Document E/CN.4/2001/73/Add.1, paragraphs 51 to 57.
4. See UN Doc. E/CN.4/1992/SR.21, para. 35.
5. Rape has been included as a constituent crime against
humanity and a war crime (Articles 7, 8) under the Rome Statute
of the International Criminal Court adopted in July 1998.
6. CEDAW General Recommendation No 19, Eleventh Session, 1992.
7. See Concluding Observations of the CEDAW: Peru. 31/05/95.
A/50/38, paras. 398-451 (Concluding Observations/Comments) and
Concluding Observations of the CEDAW: Bangladesh. 24/07/97.
A/52/38/Rev.1, Part II, paras. 409-464. (Concluding
8. These directions were issued under regulation 8 of the
Establishment of the Human Rights Task Force Regulations, No. 1
9. See AI report: Sri Lanka: Torture in custody, pages 26 - 29,
for more information on the fundamental rights remedy.
10. In one case filed in 2000, judgement by the Supreme Court is
pending. (See Appendix, Case No. 8 - Yogalingam Vijitha.