Roy Samathanam

“While I was in prison I learned what inhumanity looks like. I was tortured, both mentally and physically.”

September 14, 2007 was the worst day of my life. At 3:30am, the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) of the Sri Lankan police entered my home as my daughter, pregnant wife and I were sleeping. About 15 police carrying guns began yelling in Sinhala calling me a terrorist. I will never forget the horror on my wife’s face or the screams of my 1-year old daughter. The police took me away and told my wife they would allow me to return after I gave a statement to the police. However, for three years I was imprisoned in Sri Lanka, separated from my wife and children.

While I was in prison I learned what inhumanity looks like. I was tortured, both mentally and physically. I witnessed many acts of torture including sexual violence against other Tamil prisoners. Sometimes, the prison authorities would rape women prisoners and force me to watch. Periodically they would try to have me sign confessions of things that I did not do, and would threaten that they would rape my wife if I didn’t sign. I knew these were not empty threats. The images of torture, rape and threats haunt me and I think of the many prisoners who continue to languish, without formal charges, in Sri Lankan prisons.

Once I came to Canada I found the Canadian Centre for International Justice. I was able to feel somewhat at peace having found an organization that would help me find justice. I am seeking justice because I lost three years of my life by being improperly detained and tortured by the government of Sri Lanka. I continue to be affected by what happened to me, and speaking out is a way to help me continue to deal with the effects of the torture I went through. Many other people have been mistreated by the government of Sri Lanka but they are not in a position to be able to speak out because it is too dangerous. It is difficult for me to talk about what happened, but I hope that my case can help represent all those people who cannot speak out. Through CCIJ I am able to express what happened to me. It is important for me to bring national and international attention to the violation of my rights and also the widespread abuses that Sri Lanka has committed and continues to commit. It is only by bringing attention to this issue that the situation in Sri Lanka will ever change.

There were many moments while I was in prison that I felt as though I did not have rights, simply for being a Tamil. In Canada I feel safe and secure. As a Canadian, I have hope that I will one day find justice. Seeking justice is important for me personally, as a healing process. It is also important for my family, especially my daughter. Even though my wife and children are now safely in Canada, my daughter still bursts into tears each time she sees a police officer. She is afraid that they will take her father away again. I am seeking justice not only as someone who was wrongfully imprisoned, but also as a father. It is with my daughter’s future in mind that I confront the events of my horrific ordeal. I do not want my daughter to grow up fearful and I want her to understand that her rights will be protected here in Canada.

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