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Jun-06-2012 13:05printcomments

Sri Lankan president's Speech Cancelled Amid Torture Claims

Protests halt Rajapakse's address in City of London as Tamils deported from UK claim abuses.


(LONDON) - A MEETING in the City of London due to be addressed by the President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapakse has been cancelled following the threat of large demonstrations by Tamil groups, Channel 4 reports. Metropolitan police had raised concerns about policing the event organised by the Commonwealth Business Council.

The cancelled speech follows continuing accusations against Rajapakse's government that Tamils deported from Britain are being tortured on their return to Sri Lanka.

Sen Kandiah, founder of the British Tamil Forum, said: "Common sense has prevailed. There is now enough evidence that allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka lead directly to the president himself. That is why British government officials are reluctant to meet him. He is not welcome here."

Rajapakse will still attend a lunch for Queen Elizabeth hosted by the Commonwealth secretary general at Marlborough House in Pall Mall, London, today.

Richard Uku, spokesman for the Commonwealth Secretary General, told Channel 4 News: "The secretary general invited all heads of government to this lunch and Mr Rajapakse is one of them. This doesn't take anything away from our commitment to the Commonwealth's core values, of which human rights is key."

Details of alleged torture of Tamil deportees were reported in The Guardian yesterday. One Tamil deportee spoke of being held for 17 days after being sent back to Sri Lanka. Known only as 'Hari' the former Tamil Tiger intelligence officer claims he was beaten with rods, had plastic bags filled with petrol put over his head and was hung by his feet with a nylon rope.

The man says he managed to escape back to the United Kingdom through Russia after bribing his captors, but now faces making a second claim for asylum. "I came here with a hope," he said. "I believed that the UK authorities would consider my case reasonably but, regardless of all my history and the evidence, they sent me back and I had to suffer again."

The Tamil Tigers, who fought for an independent Tamil state in Sri Lanka, were defeated as an effective fighting force in a decisive campaign in 2009.

Last week Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the government to cease deportations to Sri Lanka immediately as it had uncovered evidence of at least three Tamils deported from Britain being tortured.

HRW said that in one case, the Immigration and Asylum Chamber accepted that a woman who managed to make her way back to the UK in late 2010 after having previously been deported by Border Agency staff, was tortured and raped following her forcible return to Sri Lanka.

The human rights group has documented a total of 13 cases of people who, after being returned to Sri Lanka when their asylum claims in various European countries failed, were subsequently tortured by government security forces. The methods employed included scalding with cigarettes and heated iron rods and suffocation with plastic bags.

Commenting on Twitter, Channel 4's Jon Snow raised the issue of the Commonwealth Head of Government's Meeting, due to be held in Sri Lanka in 2014. "Amid continuing war crimes accusations against Sri Lankan President, why is Commonwealth going ahead with leaders Conference there in 2014," he asked.

The Home Office's latest guidance on the country, dated April this year, says it had considered reports by Freedom from Torture and Human Rights Watch on torture but "following current case law, maintains that at present it is safe in general to return failed asylum seekers, including Tamils, to Sri Lanka".

However, last week a High Court judge offered a last-minute reprieve to 40 Tamils due to be deported from Stansted airport on Thursday. They were granted their reprieve by the Mr Justice Eady, who said: "The recent Human Rights Watch report, dated 29 May 2012 suggests that there may be new evidence relevant to the risk of ill treatment."

David Mepham, the UK director of HRW said: "This is a very dramatic development. It is incredibly welcome that a High Court judge has recognised the serious risk facing failed Tamil asylum-seekers. This should be a wakeup call for the British government. Its existing policy towards Sri Lanka is fundamentally flawed and needs to be seriously re-thought." ยท

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Anonymous June 7, 2012 4:06 am (Pacific time)

New video of the Rajapaksa Regime barbarism during the war.

Further evidence has emerged of the brutal treatment of Tamils by Sri Lankan soldiers during the closing stages of the country's civil war. Video footage obtained by The Independent shows soldiers gloating over a pile of more than 100 Tamil corpses, including dozens of women who have been deliberately stripped of their clothes to expose their breasts and genitals.

The videos are part of a growing body of evidence which has emerged over the past two years – much of which was recorded by Sri Lankan soldiers – revealing how many Tamils were tortured, summarily executed and often humiliated after their deaths for the entertainment of their victors.

The latest footage – which was smuggled out of Sri Lanka by a man who used to work at an internet café frequented by soldiers, and passed to The Independent – emerged as thousands of angry Tamil demonstrators massed outside the Commonwealth’s headquarters in London yesterday in protest at a lunch hosted by the Queen, which was attended by Sri Lanka’s controversial President, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Angry chants could be heard as the Queen entered Malborough House off Pall Mall and organisers were forced to cancel a planned speech by Mr Rajapaksa following security concerns.

Tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and Tamil insurgents were killed in the final stages of Sri Lanka’s 30-year civil war, which ended in 2009 with the destruction of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam separatist group.

Human rights groups and the UN have produced evidence that both sides committed war crimes during the final stages of the conflict. But there has been particular criticism aimed at Mr Rajapaksa’s government, which has refused to hold any independent inquiry into Sri Lankan army atrocities despite compelling evidence.

The latest videos obtained by The Independent reveal how – even after death – Tamils were often treated with contempt by Sinhalese soldiers. The black-and-white mobile phone footage shows more than 100 corpses laid out on tarpaulins. Some of the male victims are clad in the striped camouflage worn by the Tamil Tigers but the majority are dressed in civilian clothes.

It is impossible to say whether the victims were combatants, civilians or both. Tamil Tigers were known to use civilians as human shields, while Sri Lanka’s army has been accused of deliberately shelling civilian areas as it pushed ahead with its final onslaught against the LTTE.

What is clear, however, is the special treatment reserved for bodies of female Tamils. While the majority of men are fully clothed or topless, almost all the women featured in the video have been deliberately stripped naked or had their breasts and genitals exposed. Within Sri Lankan culture it is considered deeply shameful for a woman to expose any skin that would normally be covered by a sari or clothing.

Previous footage has emerged of Tamil women stripped naked either before or after their death whilst human rights groups have continue to document reports of rape and sexual violence by soldiers. In one particularly well known example uncovered by Channel 4 last year, Sri Lankan soldiers took victory photos of the corpse of prominent Tamil news reporter Isaippiriya. In many of the shots she was naked and had her hands tied behind her back prompting concerns that she might have been raped before being executed.

Charu Lata Hogg, an expert on Sri Lanka at Chatham House, says the footage fits into a wider pattern of abuse meted out to Tamils. “There is credible evidence in the public domain which suggests Sri Lankan troops used degrading and humiliating behaviour towards both male and female Tamils, civilians and combatants alike, during the final stages of the conflict,” she said. “The UN goes as far as to say that the 'screening process' directly resulted in executions, disappearances and rape of some LTTE suspects.”

Despite the emergence of scores of videos shot by civilians and soldiers during the war, the Sri Lankan government has routinely denied that its forces were responsible for atrocities and claims that such footage is faked.

When informed of the new videos yesterday, President Mahinda’s spokesperson Bandula Jayasekara told The Independent: “This is a continuation of a famous fairy tale. These videos are an attempt to discredit the government of Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka’s forces. These guys are masters of propaganda; they have been doing this for 30 years.”

But Vasuki Maruhathas, a London based solicitor who obtained the video footage from a client and handed it to The Independent, said she believed the footage was genuine. She said the video was smuggled out of the country because her client – who wishes to remain nameless – worked at an internet café which was often frequented by soldiers. He was regularly asked to back up their phones or download videos and photos so they could email them.

The Independent has viewed 32 videos and 26 photos that appear to have been taken by the same phone. Most show pictures show a pile of corpses at an unknown location whilst seven photos show what appear to be captured Tamil Tiger fighters handcuffed inside a bus. Some of them are children.

The footage appears to have been taken by female Sri Lankan soldier. Her voice and that of her colleagues, all of whom speak in Sinahalese, can be heard in numerous videos and seen two others riding in a military vehicle. The last video appears to show the solider back at home with her family.

“It would very hard for all of these to be a forgery,” said Miss Maruhathas. “It clearly tells a story of this female soldier.”

Asked why Sri Lankan soldiers might have stripped the women naked she replied: “There are clearly two possibilities. Either they were raped and sexually assaulted before they died, or they were stripped after their deaths. Only animals would do something like this”."> 

Ranjan June 7, 2012 2:36 am (Pacific time)

Rajapaksa Government seems to be created embarrassment everywhere !!

In a recent BBC interview with the Secretary of Defence, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is another pile of embarrassment left by this ….. threatening, arrogant sibling of the Sri Lanka ruling royal family

I actually don’t believe my eyes when read the BBC journalist Charles Haviland interview with him!!

From the interview with the Secretary of Defence, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, broadcast on the BBC.

Charles Haviland:

The allegations are also of mass civilian deaths and people wonder whether there will be accountability ?

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa:

No – If there’s a violation, if can prove, then we can punish, that is no problem. But you have to prove that. You know – we have defeated such a terrorist group. The worst terrorist group in the world. Now you don’t talk about that! We have stopped killing in this country. You don’t talk about that. You are supporting the terrorist! You are supporting the terrorist cause!

Charles Haviland:

I assure you I am not, Secretary.


So by asking Rajapaksa Government about the accountability of numerous civilian death in the war… one immediately is branded an LTTE, a terrorist, or a terrorist supporter??

Is BBC journalist Charles Haviland a terrorist supporter ???

No… I don’t think so!!

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