The annual US human rights report noted that the Sri Lankan Government has made limited progress toward establishing additional transitional justice mechanisms.
The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017 made public by Acting US Secretary of State John J. Sullivan, noted that there were some reports that the Government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
According to the report, interviews by human rights organizations found that torture remained endemic throughout the country, including for those charged with offenses under the PTA. Suspects arrested under the PTA, including since the war ended in 2009, gave accounts of torture and mistreatment, forced confessions, and denial of basic rights such as access to lawyers or family members. Several released former combatants reported torture or mistreatment, including sexual abuse by government officials while in rehabilitation centers and after their release. Excessive use of force against civilians by police and security officials also remained a problem.
The International Truth and Justice Project and the Associated Press reported allegations of abductions and torture carried out by the security sector during the year. They reported most victims were Tamil men accused by security forces of having links to the LTTE and that security forces tortured and sexually abused them after the initial abduction.
There were also reports of sexual abuse committed by Government and security sector officials against wives who came forward seeking information about their missing husbands or against war widows who attempted to claim government benefits based on their deceased husbands’ military service.
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, but there were reports arbitrary arrest and detention occurred last year, the report found, although at a decreased rate compared with 2016.
The report also said that the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka received 118 complaints of arbitrary arrest and detention during the year in 2017. According to human rights groups, the police and its Criminal Investigation and Terrorism Investigation Departments unlawfully detained individuals in police stations, army camps, and informal detention facilities on allegations of involvement in terrorism-related activities without bringing charges or arraigning detainees within the timeframe required by law.
Police sometimes held detainees incommunicado, and lawyers had to apply for permission to meet clients, with police frequently present at such meetings. In some cases, unlawful detentions reportedly included interrogations involving mistreatment or torture. Authorities reportedly released detainees with a warning not to reveal information about their arrests or detentions under the threats of rearrest or death. (Colombo Gazette)