Geneva/Toronto, November 21, 2016. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has concluded that the government of Sri Lanka violated the rights of Roy Samathanam, a Tamil-Canadian who was imprisoned and tortured over a period of three years.
In its written decision, the UN Committee stated that Sri Lanka is under an obligation to provide Samathanam with “full reparation” for the violations committed by authorities in Sri Lanka, particularly the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID). The Committee also concluded that Sri Lanka is required to conduct a “thorough and effective investigation into the facts,” to “prosecute, try and punish those responsible,” and to “provide adequate compensation.” The Committee has given Sri Lanka 180 days to report back about the measures taken to comply with the decision.
“Although I can never get back the three years of my life that I lost, I finally have a measure of justice,” said Roy Samathanam. “I took this action not only for accountability in my case but for so many others who cannot speak out due to the danger they still face.”
Working with the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ), Samathanam filed a complaint with the UN Committee in 2013 in an attempt to get Sri Lanka to remedy the multiple violations of his rights. Samathanam endured several beatings and inhuman conditions of confinement in Sri Lanka between 2007 and 2010.
The TID has been strongly criticized for its involvement in human rights abuses, including by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In a 2015 report, the High Commissioner concluded that the TID was responsible for unlawful and arbitrary arrests as well as torture. The High Commissioner found that Sri Lankan authorities committed torture “on a widespread scale.”
“My arrest was not ordered by any judge but instead by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence,” added Roy Samathanam. “The same unjust law that was used in my case – the Prevention of Terrorism Act – is still in force and being used to detain Tamils in violation of their rights.”
In its decision, the UN Human Rights Committee pointed to the use of torture as a tool to force Samathanam into signing a false confession, and officers forcing Samathanam to witness the torture of other prisoners. These acts, among others, led the Committee to determine that Sri Lanka violated several of Samathanam’s rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a signatory.
“We are thrilled with the Committee’s conclusions and its clear statement about the steps the government of Sri Lanka is obligated to take,” said Matt Eisenbrandt, CCIJ’s Legal Director. “We call on Sri Lanka to immediately implement all these measures, including a full investigation and prosecution of those responsible as well as full compensation.”
“While we monitor the progress of the Sri Lankan government in this case, we will continue to review other avenues for accountability,” Eisenbrandt added. “All the individuals responsible, including the hands-on torturers and their commanders, must be brought to justice.”
- Matt Eisenbrandt, CCIJ, +1-604-569-1778, firstname.lastname@example.org
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