BY ATHULA VITHANAGE
Shocking details of sexual torture has been exposed in a report identifying many torture camps and several officers who carried out the systematic persecution of Tamils through torture, rape, illegal detention and killings. In compiling its latest report, “Still Unfinished War: Sri Lanka’s Survivors of Torture and Sexual Violence 2009-2015”, International Truth & Justice Project (ITJP) records details of more than 40 torture sites while naming over 60 rapists and torturers.
‘This is by no means a comprehensive list,’ says ITJP.
A vast number of the identified torture camps are located in the pre-dominantly Tamil speaking North. Two thirds of them are military sites while the rest are police stations and government designated ‘rehabilitation camps’. Over half of the police stations listed as torture centres are concentrated in the capital Colombo and its suburbs.
The 48 ‘torture sites’ listed in the report include, an undisclosed torture camp hidden in the jungle covered hills of the Trincomalee naval dockyards compound, Joint Operational Security Forces (JOSEF Camp) in Vavunia and the Police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in the city of Colombo. The report has also provided an aerial map which identifies the location of the secret torture camp in Trincomalee. In addition to torture and sexual abuse survivors, ITJP says that it has spoken to security forces and government sources to gather information.
A security force insider has told ITJP researchers that military intelligence officials operating from JOSEF camp ‘were actively looking for any Tamils returning home from abroad in order to interrogate them’, since President Maithripala Sirisena was elected to office in 2015. ITJP has recorded eight accounts of torture and abuse that happened after January 8, 2015, the most recent in July 2015.
Major General Amal Karunasekara is the current commander of the Josef camp while Major Generals Boniface Perera, Sumedha Perera, Kamal Gunaratne and Jagath Jayasuriya have been the preceding commanders since 2009. The present military chief Lieutenant General Crishanthe de Silva was in charge of ‘dealing with all the surrendees and captured former LTTE cadres,’ a security force insider has told ITJP.
Witnesses have named Lieutenant Commander KC Welagedara as the naval intelligence officer in command of the Trincomalee secret camp up to 2010. ITJP says that Lieutenant Commander Ranasinghe took over the running of the site, according to survivors.
In April this year, Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court ordered an overseas travel ban against the former Navy Spokesman, Commander D.K.P. Dassanayake, Lieutenant Commander Sampath Munasinghe, Ranasinghe Arachchige Hettiarachchi and Ranasinghe Pedige Sumith Ranasinghe suspected for the disappearances of 28 people.
More names to come
ITJP says that it has not revealed all the names of the perpetrators recorded by them for witness protection reasons. However, “should there be a legitimate justice initiative with effective witness protection measure, we will release all the names once we are assured that the witnesses and their families will be protected,” ITJP spokesperson Frances Harrison told JDS.
Security force insiders ‘have clearly identified Major General Shavendra Silva and two other Major Generals, as being present at the frontline in the final days of the war when troops were involved in executing surrendered LTTE suspects and sexually violating them and/ or sexually mutilating their corpses’. Major General Shavendra Silva and Former Army Commander Jagath Jayasuriya has been named as senior military commanders who accepted Tamil Tiger leaders when they surrendered carrying ‘white flags’ and were killed in army custody.
100 White Van Abductions
The report is based on 180 cases of torture and/ or sexual violence, says ITJP. They have told of violence that ranged from ‘severe beatings, to detention, gang rape, disappearances and even death’. ITJP says that it has recorded statements from one hundred people who have survived white van abductions. Many abduction and torture victims who had spoken to ITJP from exile have told of reprisals against their families living in the north of Sri Lanka.