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Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

& Other Ill Treatment

In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                                    

Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

Police and security forces have engaged in abusive practices, including arbitrary arrest, extrajudicial execution, forced disappearance, custodial rape, torture, and prolonged detention without trial, all of which disproportionately affect Tamils.

  [Freedom House Country Report, 2018]

Description: Description: SriLanka

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Sri Lanka.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Torture by Authorities are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring the moral justification for inflicting pain or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in order to obtain critical information that may save countless lives, or to elicit a confession for a criminal act, or to punish someone to teach him a lesson outside of the courtroom.  Perhaps your paper might focus on some of the methods of torture, like fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, suffocation, or immersion in freezing water.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the people acting in an official capacity who perpetrate such cruelty.  There is a lot to the subject of Torture by Authorities.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.

*** ARCHIVES ***

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Sri Lanka

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 8 August 2021]


Interviews by human rights organizations found that torture and excessive use of force by police, particularly to extract confessions, remained endemic. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), for example, noted that many reports of torture referred to police officers allegedly “roughing up” suspects to extract a confession or otherwise elicit evidence to use against the accused. As in previous years, arrestees reported torture and mistreatment, forced confessions, and denial of basic rights, such as access to lawyers or family members.

The HRCSL documented 260 complaints of physical and mental torture from January to August in addition to 37 complaints from prisoners.


Prison conditions were poor due to old infrastructure, overcrowding, and a shortage of sanitary facilities.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding was a problem. On December 3, the press reported that Prisons Commissioner General Thushara Upuldeniya stated prisons in Sri Lanka were overcrowded by 173 percent, with the Colombo Welikada Prison overcrowded by 300 percent. He noted that many were imprisoned due to inability to pay fines or bail charges. Upuldeniya stated that due to overcrowding, inmates lacked adequate space to sleep and basic hygiene facilities. Authorities often held pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners together as well. In many prisons inmates reportedly slept on concrete floors, and prisons often lacked natural light or ventilation.

Canadian torture survivor sues Sri Lankan official he claims was responsible for abuses

Stewart Bell, National Online Journalist, Investigative Global News, 15 April 2019

[accessed 19 May 2019]

Early on Sept. 14, 2007, police searched his home, asked for a bribe and, when Samathanam refused to pay, took him away on the grounds he had helped a friend import cell phones.

Samathanam was beaten with metal pipes, rubber clubs and rifle butts, the document alleged. He was kicked in the face, abdomen, arms and legs, and chained in painful positions.

He was forced to watch as other prisoners were hung upside down, struck with pipes, burned, sexually assaulted and suffocated with plastic bags filled with gasoline and chili peppers, according to the complaint.

Samathanam’s captors threatened to shoot him in the head, arrest and rape his wife and kill his child, all the while accusing him of working for the Tamil Tigers intelligence wing in Toronto.

“No one can help you here,” he was allegedly told.

Sri Lankan police torture Tamil youths, asking 'were you in LTTE?'

Tamil Guardian, 23 November 2018

[accessed 24 November 2018]

"They hung me upside down and beat me, asking me if I was in the LTTE," one of the victims, Pirakash Balasingham from Elalai, Jaffna said.

Both youths received treatment for their injuries at Tellippalai hospital following their release the next day.

Sri Lankan reform has 'ground to a halt' with torture used freely – UN

Patrick Wintour, Diplomatic Editor, The Guardian, 22 Jul 2018

[accessed 23 July 2018]

Emmerson concluded on the basis of his visit that progress towards reconciliation and a fair judicial system had virtually ground to a halt. The British barrister said “impunity is still the rule for those responsible for the routine and systemic use of torture, and countless individuals are the victims of gross miscarriages of justice resulting from the operation of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA)“.

Emmerson said he had heard “distressing testimonies of very brutal and cruel methods of torture, including beatings with sticks, the use of stress positions, asphyxiation using plastic bags drenched in kerosene, pulling out of fingernails, insertion of needles beneath the fingernails, use of various forms of water torture, suspension of individuals for several hours by their thumbs, and mutilation of genitals”.

Sri Lanka’s ‘disappeared’: Torture, assault and still no justice

Emma Richards, Asian Correspondent, 11 May 2018

[accessed 16 May 2018]

Nihal’s story of abduction and abuse is not a unique one. Reporter Drew Ambrose spoke to several men with similar stories of the mysterious “white van.” Many, like Nishal, spend years in detention without charge or access to a lawyer. Nishal was eventually released once it was deemed there was not enough evidence to charge him, but this was after he spent a total of seven years behind bars.

More than 60,000 others have gone missing over the last 30 years; the victims largely belong to the minority Sri Lankan Tamil community. While there are many reports of this being used as a tactic throughout the 26-year civil war against the Tamil Tiger rebel fighters, Ambrose found that the practice continues today.

“Kidnappings were used to instil fear during Sri Lanka’s long-running civil war,” says Ambrose. “It’s been almost a decade since the war ended but we met people who say they were abducted and tortured as recently as last year.”

Freedom House Country Report

2018 Edition

[accessed 18 May 2020]


Police and security forces have engaged in abusive practices, including arbitrary arrest, extrajudicial execution, forced disappearance, custodial rape, torture, and prolonged detention without trial, all of which disproportionately affect Tamils. In November 2017, allegations of torture and sexual assault of some 50 Tamil men by members of the security forces emerged in the international media. Due to huge backlogs and a lack of resources, independent commissions have been slow to investigate allegations of police and military misconduct.

Men report rape, torture under Sri Lankan government

Paisley Dodds, The Associated Press AP, 8 November 2017

[accessed 9 November 2017]

Most of the men say they were sexually abused or raped, sometimes with sticks wrapped in barbed wire. Homosexuality is illegal in Sri Lanka and rape carries a significant social stigma.

Witness #205 said he was held for 21 days in a small room where he was raped 12 times, burned with cigarettes, beaten with iron rods and hung upside- down. Another man described being abducted from home by five men, driven to a prison, and taken to a "torture room" equipped with ropes, iron rods, a bench and buckets of water. Blood stained the walls.

A third said prisoners had grown accustomed to the sound of screaming. "It made us really scared the first day but then we got used to it because we heard screaming all the time."

Police Scotland under fire after new evidence of Sri Lankan torture

Billy Briggs, The Ferret, 24 May 2016

[accessed 9 August 2016]

[accessed 9 August 2016]

Methods of torture included beatings, burning, rape and other forms of sexual violence, asphyxiation, electric shocks, mock executions, and stabbings.

FfT’s Tainted Peace report said detention conditions are dreadful in Sri Lanka, with many detainees held in darkness and deprived of adequate food and water. Seventy per cent of people were held in solitary confinement.

Regarding torture by the state, it added: “The high prevalence of burning with cigarettes or heated pieces of metal could reflect a policy of branding, not only to inflict long term psychological and physical damage, but to ensure that the individual is easily identifiable in future as having been of adverse interest to the authorities.”

People were slapped, punched or trampled on their heads, hands, feet, genitals and abdomen. Many reported losing consciousness – and coming around only to be tortured again.

Alleged Police Torture Exposed In Court

Easwaran Rutnam, Sunday Leader, 2 Aug 2016

[accessed 2 August 2016]

Alleged police torture was taken up at the Mallakam court last week where it was alleged that the Chunnakam police had assaulted and killed a suspect in 2011 and later turned the murder into suicide.

The youth claimed that they were beaten and tortured mercilessly while one boy had his body stretched between two tables.

The boy, identified as Suman, was asked by the police if he wanted a separate state, while he was being tortured.

The Mallakam court was told that while being assaulted, Suman began to bleed from his nose and mouth and had succumbed to his injuries.

The body was thrown into the Iranamadu tank and later the police claimed that the boy had committed suicide.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2015 - Events of 2014

Human Rights Watch, 29 January 2015 or

[accessed 18 March 2015]


CRACKDOWN ON CIVIL SOCIETY AND CRITICS -  Arbitrary arrests of Sri Lankan activists who advocate for accountability continued in 2014. The government also widened its crackdown against independent media and human rights defenders.

REFUGEES - Human Rights Watch and others have documented the authorities’ use of torture against people suspected of links to the LTTE, including those returned as failed asylum seekers from the United Kingdom and other countries.

Police completes Chilaw torture investigation

Maneshka Borham, The Nation, 24 August 2014

[accessed 16 September 2014]

[accessed 30 August 2016]

[scroll down]

Sanjeewa who repaired push bicycles as his livelihood at Panirendawa and two others were allegedly arrested by police in civvies and brutally attacked on suspicion of a theft committed in the Sembukattiya area.

He alleges that a particular officer urinated on him when he asked for some water. Describing the incident the victim said the officers kicked him and threw him into the back of the vehicle they arrived in. According to Sanjeewa, the officers had continued to assault him while the police jeep was in motion. At the Police station the officers allegedly attacked him with wooden poles and tortured repeatedly for refusing to admit a theft he had no hand in.

The arrest, detention and torture of Tamils in post-war Sri Lanka

Arthur, 11 April 2014

[accessed 20 April 2014]

There is an alarming trend in the Sri Lankan security forces operation, of arresting the family members of suspects and keeping them as hostages in detention camps.

These women are held in inhuman conditions without the basic facilities and necessary accessories by the unsympathetic officials. The officials seem to be oblivious to the fact that their captives are human beings and are entitled to basic facilities and humane treatment. No sympathy could be expected from the authorities whose mindset is hard, inhuman, and cruel in the treatment of detainees.

In Sri Lanka, Abuse, Torture, Rape Continue Says Report

Shanoor Seervai, India Real Time, 3 April 2014

[accessed 4 April 2014]

Most of the witnesses interviewed for the report, titled “An Unfinished War: Torture and Sexual Violence in Sri Lanka 2009-2014,” had returned to Sri Lanka after the government said they were welcome to come home at the end of the decades-long war.

Upon their return, the unnamed witnesses in the report said they were abducted, detained and tortured.

The report includes first-hand accounts of alleged torture in detention, including being branded with hot metal rods, burnt with lit cigarettes, lacerated, and water boarded. All the witnesses say they were sexually abused, some with metal objects.

Sri Lanka Army Admits Torture of Women Recruits

Source: Agence France Presse AFP, 20 March 2014

[accessed 23 March 2014]

Sri Lanka's military admitted on Saturday soldiers had abused and tortured female recruits, a rare admission of guilt after years of allegations over its personnel's treatment of Tamil rebels during an uprising.

It is the first time the military has accepted a leaked video showing torture as authentic, previously rejecting as fabrications several others allegedly showing executions of surrendered Tamil rebels and sexual abuse of female detainees.

A study published Friday by South African human rights lawyer and UN adviser, Yasmin Sooka, alleged that Sri Lankan troops carried out horrific sexual abuse of ethnic minority Tamils even after the end of the island's drawn out separatist war.

She said the "highest levels" of Sri Lanka's government were complicit in raping, torturing and abducting ethnic Tamils following the war and accused security forces of sexual abuse of Tamils, including forced oral sex and anal rape as well as water torture.

Torture, inhumane degrading treatment and harassment of a prison officer

Asian Human Rights Commission-Urgent Appeal Programme

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-032-2014, 14 March, 2014

[accessed 17 March 2014]

According to the information received by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Mr. Samarasinghe Arachchilage Samantha Dassanayake is a jailor of the Sri Lanka Prison Department attached to the Negombo Prison. He is married and is said to have an impeccable service record with the Department.

In the evening of 30 July 2013 Samantha went to the Seeduwa Police Station to assist his friend to make a complaint and obtain justice. This was regarding information that his friend, A.M. Naweendra Chandraratne, was assaulted by Daya Nilanga Silva, the son-in-law of Ramyasiri de Soiza, who is said to be a ward member of Negombo Municipal Council.

Then Samantha was suddenly assaulted by Daya Nilanga Silva, the son-in-law of Ramyasiri de Soiza in front of the police officers inside the police station. None of the officers made any attempt to prevent the assault from taking place or take any action against the blatantly illegal action of Mr. Daya Nilanga Silva.

When he was in police custody, due to the assault he was bleeding continuously from his left ear. While he was in the holding cell the Ramyasiri de Soiza approached and sarcastically asked him how he was feeling. de Soiza threatened him and warned him to be careful or he would face bigger problems. The police officers who witnessed this exchange did not take any action against de Soiza or his son-in-law, Daya Nilanga Silva.

Later that night one of the Assistant Superintendents of Police (ASP) came and took a statement from Samantha and the following day (31 July 2013) he was released. He was later admitted to the Negombo General Hospital.

Samantha states that he was illegally arrested, detained by officers of the Seeduwa Police Station who permitted him to be tortured by Ramyasiri de Soiza, the ward member of Negombo Municipal Council and his son-in-law, Mr. Daya Nilanga Silva which under Sri Lankan law constitutes torture by state officers.

Samantha complained to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRC), the Inspector General of Police (IGP), and the National Police commission (NPC) seeking an independent, impartial, prompt and efficient inquiry into the violation of his rights. However, as at the time of writing none of these authorities have initiated any inquiry into the matter which continues to violate his rights. Samantha and his family members seek justice and the protection of his rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

26 victims exhumed, mass grave reveals torture, executions at standing position

TamilNet, 6 January 2014

[accessed 3 March 2014]

There were also teeth of children among the remains recovered on Saturday. On Monday, a full skeleton of a 6-year-old child has been exhumed. 26 skeletons have been found till Monday noon. Several skeletons recovered so far also bore marks of torture, the sources told TamilNet Monday. The exhumation effort will continue, the reports said.

The victims were most probably innocent civilians who were trying to reach Mannaar through Naayaattu-ve’li during the Sri Lanka Army launched military operation Rana Gosha in 1999.

At least 240 people are reported missing between 1990 and 2009 in the nearby villages Paappaamoaddai, Ka’ndal, Pa’l’limunai, Ma’likaith-thidal, Theanudaiyaan and Veaddaiyaa-mu’rippu, the legal sources further said.

Sri Lankan 'suspects' tell of rape and torture

Dean Nelson, Daily Telegraph, 1 November 2013

[accessed 2 Nov 2013]

The country has 5,676 "outstanding cases" of disappearances - more than any other apart from Iraq. Although the civil war ended in 2009, President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government has kept the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which allows anyone to be jailed without charge or trial for up to 18 months. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has documented 10 cases of suspects being tortured or mistreated in detention since February.

More disappearances have also taken place in recent months. One 30-year-old woman told The Daily Telegraph that she was abducted by men driving an unmarked white van in the northern city of Jaffna on August 12. She was bundled in to the vehicle, blindfolded and driven about 90 miles to the town of Vavuniya. There, she was interrogated, stripped and photographed naked by men she believed were police officers from the Criminal Investigation Department.

Later that evening, several of the men beat her with rods. "I was raped by many men, not just one and it continued until I escaped," she said. "They bit me on my backside and breasts." On August 31, she was blindfolded and placed in a vehicle again. The woman, a mother, feared that she was going to be murdered. Instead she was taken to meet her uncle, who had paid a large bribe to secure her release. She then fled to India and later to Britain, where she is now seeking asylum.

"I could not have taken any more. If I have to go back, I would not survive," she said by telephone from London.

Torture in Sri Lanka - ‘Many times I would lose consciousness’

Amnesty International, 25 June 2013

[accessed 26 June 2013]

Thevan (not his real name) has flashbacks of the impossible days he spent being tortured in a police cell in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo.

In late 2008, Thevan worked in a shop near Vavuniya.   On 29 November that year, he travelled to Colombo with a friend amid the country’s escalating civil war, and both were abducted by men driving a white van.   The men blindfolded them and took them to a detention centre. Three days of torture passed before they realized they were being held in a police station.

“I was blindfolded and with my hands tied behind my back. Sometimes our heads were banged against the wall or we would be kicked on our chests. Many times I was half conscious or would lose consciousness. When I would come back I would find people hitting me. They used to say: ‘You must accept that you are part of the Tamil Tigers and you must sign these papers’”.

Sri Lanka security rape, torture Tamil detainees: HRW

Nita Bhalla, Reuters, NEW DELHI, 26 Feb 2013

[accessed 27 February 2013]

Sri Lanka's security forces have used rape to torture and extract confessions from suspected Tamil separatists almost four years after the country's civil war ended, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report on Tuesday.

The rights group documented 75 cases of predominately Tamil men and women who said they were held in Sri Lankan detention centers and repeatedly raped and sexually abused by the military, police and intelligence officials.

The victims - now living as asylum seekers, most of them in Britain - said once they confessed to being a member of the Tamil Tiger rebel group, the abuse generally stopped and they were allowed to escape by paying a bribe.

"We found that rape was used to secure some sort of confession, but also as a political tool to punish people," Meenakshi Ganguly, the rights group's South Asia director, told a news conference in New Delhi.

Other victims said they were "severely tortured, burnt by cigarettes and hung upside down," he added.

Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to New Delhi, Prasad Kariyawasam, said he had no evidence to suggest the allegations of abuse, which the rights group said occurred from 2006 to 2012, were true.

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture

U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment  -- Doc. CAT/C/LKA/CO/3-4 (2011)

[accessed 6 March 2013]

C. Principal subjects of concern and recommendations Allegations of widespread use of torture and ill-treatment

6. Notwithstanding the new circumstances prevailing since the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the end of the military conflict that had consumed the country for nearly 30 years, and the State party’s public commitment to the Committee that it has a zero-tolerance policy on torture as a matter of State policy and practice, the Committee remains seriously concerned about 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 (arts. 2, 4, 11 and 15).

Fundamental legal safeguards

7. While noting the information provided by the State party on the content of the Presidential Directives of 7 July 2006 (reissued in 2007) and the Rules with regard to Persons in Custody of the Police (Code of Departmental Order No. A 20), the Committee expresses its serious concern at the State party’s failure in practice to afford all detainees, including those detained under anti-terrorist laws, with all fundamental safeguards from the very outset of their detention. The Committee is concerned that, despite the content of the 2006 Presidential Directives, criminal suspects held in custody still have no statutory right to inform a family member of the arrest or to have prompt access to a lawyer of their choice. The Code of Criminal Procedure also lacks other fundamental legal safeguards, such as the right to have a lawyer present during any interrogation and to be assisted by an interpreter and the right to confidential communication between lawyer and client. The Committee notes with concern that access to a doctor is left to the discretion of the police officer in charge of the police station. It also expresses concern about reports that police fail to bring suspects before a judge within the time prescribed by law and that accused persons are often not adequately informed about their rights. The Committee also expresses its concern at the absence of a State-sponsored legal aid programme; and, at the variety of institutional, technical and procedural obstacles rendering the writ of habeas corpus ineffective (art. 2).

Secret detention centres

8. Notwithstanding the statement of the Sri Lankan delegation categorically denying all allegations about the existence of unacknowledged detention facilities in its territory, the Committee is seriously concerned about reports received from non-governmental sources regarding secret detention centres run by the Sri Lankan military intelligence and paramilitary groups where enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings have allegedly been perpetrated (art. 2 and 11).

Coerced confessions

11. While noting the clarification given by the State party in respect of the inadmissibility of evidence obtained through torture under the Evidence Ordinance Act 1985, the Committee remains concerned about the fact that the PTA allows all confessions obtained by police at or above the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) to be admissible (sect. 16) placing the burden of proof on the accused that a confession was obtained under duress (sect. 17(2)). The Committee is also concerned at reports that in most cases filed under the PTA the sole evidence relied upon is confessions obtained by an ASP or an officer above that rank The Committee further notes with concern reports documenting individual cases of torture and ill-treatment where the victims were allegedly randomly selected by police to be arrested and detained for what appears to be an unsubstantiated charge and subsequently subjected to torture or ill-treatment to obtain a confession for those charges (art. 2, 11, 15 and 16)

Deaths in custody

15. The Committee is concerned at reports from non-governmental organisations on deaths in custody, including police killings of criminal suspects in alleged staged “encounters” or “escape” attempts.2 The Committee notes with concern that the State party only reported two cases of death in custody, where the cause of death was determined to be suicide, for the entire period 2006-2011, while for a similar period between 2000-2005 the State party had reported in its core document approximately 65 annual deaths in custody from all causes (HRI/CORE/LKA/2008, p. 87).

Impunity for acts of torture and ill-treatment

18. The Committee remains concerned about the prevailing climate of impunity in the State party and the apparent failure to investigate promptly and impartially wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed. It also notes the absence of an effective independent monitoring mechanism to investigate complaints of torture. The Committee expresses concern over reports that the Attorney General’s office has stopped referring cases to the Special Investigations Unit (SUP) of the police and the large proportion of pending cases still outstanding. The Committee is also concerned at numerous reports concerning the lack of independence of the judiciary (arts. 11, 12 and 13).


From an old article -- URL not available

Article was published sometime prior to 2015


Torture in police custody persisted. In at least five cases, victims died in custody after beatings or other ill-treatment by the police.

On 15 April, Chandrasiri Dassanayake, a witness in a human rights case filed with the Supreme Court against the Officer-in-Charge of Wadduwa Police Station, died in custody there. Police claimed they arrested him for cannabis possession and that he fell sick in his cell and was admitted to hospital. The victim’s son reported seeing his father lying on the floor of the cell bleeding and said Chandrasiri Dassanayake told him he had been beaten by police. The death led to local protests and the Officer-in-Charge, a sergeant and two other police constables were transferred to other police stations, but no further action was taken.

Thirty Tamil prisoners were assaulted and two died of injuries inflicted by STF members who reportedly beat them in retaliation for a prison uprising in Vavuniya in June.

Twenty-seven inmates died in a clash between prisoners and STF members at Welikada prison on 9 November. Results of an official inquiry into allegations that some prisoners were extrajudicially executed were not made public


In February Antony Warnakulasuriya was killed and three others were wounded when the Special Task Force (STF), a commando unit, fired live ammunition into a crowd of people from the fishing community who were protesting against fuel price increases outside the west coast town of Chilaw. Police reportedly blocked protesters from taking the injured to hospital by land, forcing them to go by boat


More than 20 alleged enforced disappearances were reported. Victims included political activists, business people and suspected criminals. Prominent cases from past years remained unresolved.

Armed men abducted Tamil businessman Ramasamy Prabaharan on 11 February, just two days before the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear his complaints against arbitrary arrest, detention and torture by police and seizure of his business in May 2009.

In April, Frontline Socialist Party activists Premakumar Gunaratnam and Dimuthu Attigala were abducted shortly before the launch of the new party; both were interrogated and eventually released. Premakumar Gunaratnam, an Australian citizen, said he was tortured by his abductors, who he believed were linked to the government.


Freedom House Country Report - Political Rights: 4   Civil Liberties: 4   Status: Partly Free

2009 Edition

[accessed 12 February 2013]

LONG URL   ç 2009 Country Reports begin on Page 21

[accessed 13 May 2020]

In November 2005, the new government transferred authority over the police force to the Ministry of Defense. Heightened political and military conflict beginning in 2006 has led to a sharp rise in the number of human rights abuses committed by security forces, including arbitrary arrest, extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, torture, custodial rape, and prolonged detention without trial. Torture occurs in the context of the insurgency and during routine interrogations. Such practices are facilitated by emergency regulations reintroduced in 2005, under which detainees can be held for up to a year without trial.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 12 February 2013]

[accessed 7 July 2019]

TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – The law makes torture a punishable offense but does not implement several provisions of the UN Convention Against Torture. Human rights groups maintained that while torture is prohibited under specific circumstances, it was allowed under others. According to the HRC and other credible sources, the use of police torture to extract admissions and confessions was endemic and conducted with impunity. In addition the Emergency Regulations make confessions obtained under any circumstance, including by torture, sufficient to hold a person until the individual is brought to court; 1,798 arrests were made under the Emergency Regulations during the year, although 1,236 of those arrested were released within 12 hours. The majority of those arrested were Tamil, although detainees included Sinhalese and Muslims as well. In addition to suspicion of terrorism, people were detained for lack of identification, narcotics, and outstanding warrants (see section 1.d.).

Methods of torture included beatings--often with sticks, iron bars or hose--electric shock, suspending individuals by the wrists or feet in contorted positions, burning, genital abuse, and near-drowning. Detainees reported broken bones and other serious injuries as a result of their mistreatment, and during the year deaths occurred in police custody (see section 1.a.).

On October 10, the trial began of three police officers indicted by the Kurunegala High Court for allegedly torturing and sexually abusing Nandini Herat in 2002, and at year's end the trial was in progress. The government continued to investigate seven past cases of rape committed by security forces.

Of the 634 allegations of police torture, the majority of complaints came from police stations outside the north and east. The government continued to investigate 183 past cases of torture.

There were credible nongovernmental organization (NGO) reports that police tortured individuals in custody. For example, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) reported that on May 19, Hevana Hennadige Priyadarshana Fernando was kicked and beaten at the Panadura police station in Kalutara District. Fernando was later released on bail, and the magistrate was informed of the torture incident. At year's end no charges were filed against the officers responsible for torturing Fernando, although the original charges against Fernando remained.

On June 11, Jayasekara Vithanage Saman Priyankara reported harassment and intimidation regarding his January 2004 complaint of police torture at the Matale police station. At year's end there were no developments in his case.

On July 11, according to the AHRC, tuberculosis patient Thummiya Hakura Sarath testified that in February 2004 subinspector Silva of the Welipenna police station forced Sarath to spit into the mouth of Palitha Tissa Kumara Koralaliyanage, who was in custody and whom subinspector Silva was torturing. The Supreme Court had not heard Koralaliyanage's case, which was pending at year's end.

Special sections of the attorney general's office and the criminal investigation unit focused on torture complaints. During the year the units forwarded 63 cases for indictments, in which 1 resulted in an indictment, 2 were dismissed, and the other 59 were pending. The interparliamentary permanent standing committee and its interministerial working group on human rights issues also continued to track criminal investigations of torture.

In June 2004 the HRC established a torture prevention monitoring unit to implement its "zero tolerance" torture policy (see section 4). The HRC provided extra training for officers assigned to this unit and established a policy of quick investigation for torture complaints. The HRC also assigned special teams to investigate deaths in police custody. By year's end the HRC had opened cases on 634 torture complaints.

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- Sri Lanka",, [accessed <date>]