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Sri Lanka: Consultative process is

necessary for a Hybrid Court North


-East Women ( WAN)

( Families of the disappeared call for justice, June 2015, at UNHRC)

19/09/2015
Womens Action Network (WAN) welcomes the OISL report presented on Wednesday
to the 30th session of the UNHRC by the High Commissioner for Human Rights. We
fully endorse the attention brought to sexual violence and the forceful call to end
impunity.
OISL report covers variety of violations, a number of which WAN worked on in the
past. But this statement focuses on sexual violence.
For years, WAN and other womens groups from the north and the east have asked
successive Sri Lankan governments and the international community to investigate
and address sexual vio-lence against Tamil women during and after the armed conflict.
The OISL and HCs reports shed light on the gravity of the problem and underscore
the urgent need to fight the culture of impunity.
The OISL report describes cases in which security forces stripped Tamil women
naked, put chili powder on their genitals, burned their breasts, used pliers to squeeze
their breasts, inserted barbed wire and ice cubes into the anus, raped and gang-raped
them (including while uncon-scious), and forced them to have oral sex. Perpetrators
ranged from low-level guards to senior offices in all branches of the security forces
(TID, CID, SLA, Navy, Military Intelligence, Na-tional Intelligence Bureau).
OISL concluded: [I]ncidents of sexual violence were not isolated acts but part of a
deliberate policy to inflict torture (to obtain information, intimidate, humiliate, inflict

fear). The practices followed similar patterns, using similar tools reinforcing the
conclusion that it was part of an institutional policy within the security forces.

Sri Lankan mothers from the Dead and Missing Persons Parents organisation hold photographs as they takes
part in a protest in Jaffna, some 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of Colombo on November 15, 2013. British Prime
Minister David Cameron is flying to Jaffna, which bore the main brunt of the fighting, to meet victims of a war which
raged for 37 years. AFP PHOTO/LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHILAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP/Getty
Images

The 30 testimonies cited in the OISL report are just the tip of the iceberg. The HCs
report con-cluded that rape and sexual violence by the security forces were
widespread. Yet, as OISL noted, [n]ot one single perpetrator of sexual violence in
relation to the armed conflict is so far known to have been convicted, and the
Government has consistently sought to deny or play down the gravity of the
allegations of rape and other forms of sexual violence by the security forces.
We seem to live in a society today that turns a blind eye to the heinous crimes of
sexual violence. We hear of babies as young as 8 months and 5 years old being raped
and killed in this country.On a daily basis we hear of rapes, murder and the mutilation
of womens bodies and grave forms of violence against children. Such levels of
violence are a testament to the erosion of basic norms and values in our society which
has resulted in immunity for sexual predators. The law enforcement agencies and
judiciary are tardy and gender insensitive.
In this context, WAN fully endorses the High Commissioners call for the establishment
of a hybrid special court, with robust international involvement. This must be backed

up by a credible and acceptable victim and witness protection mechanism that works
at the ground level. WAN knows through experience that a domestic mechanism to
investigate sexual violence by the security forces will not deliver justice. To take just
one example, consider the Vishavamadhu rape case (Case no. 1569/12). Despite
uncontested evidence (including DNA tests) that four military men gang-raped a
returning Tamil IDP woman, the case has dragged since June 2010. The accused
rapists were released on bail, and at least one left the country. Meanwhile, the victim is
repeatedly harassed, beaten, and threatened to keep silent.
This is not just a question of the past. In the last few weeks, WAN has lodged a
complaint with the Human Rights Commission, alleging that police officers perpetrated
sexual torture (including vaginal penetration with a metal rod) against a single Tamil
mother from the Vanni. WAN members and other womens groups continue to be
watched, harassed, and visited at their office by CID and TID officers inquiring about
our work. The latest such incident was on 07th Sept 2015.
TID, CID, and Army officers continue to harass families of the disappeared and those
helping them. Former political prisoners are subjected to frequent visits by the CID,
police, and Army upon their release. The high levels of harassment and continuing
surveillance give rise to a cli-mate and culture in which sexual violence is allowed to
continue. If the current government is genuine in its commitment to end impunity for
sexual violence, it must disband the surveillance structures currently in place.
When he was opposition leader, Prime Minster Ranil Wickramasighe appointed a
commission to look into violence against women. He is now duty-bound to implement
the recommendations of his own commission , which made detailed findings on sexual
violence against Sri Lankan women by men in power.
Therefore, we call on the Government of Sri Lanka to:
1. Implement a comprehensive victim and witness protection mechanism that takes
into account ground realities, including harassment, surveillance, and intimidation by
state agents. Engage in consultations to understand the problems and develop
credible solutions to protect victims and witnesses.
2. Create a hybrid special court with international judges, prosecutors, lawyers,
experts, and investigators to investigate and prosecute sexual and gender-based
violence alleged during and right after the armed conflict. Draft appropriate legislation
to allow the court to prosecute sexual violence as war crimes and crimes against
humanity, to reflect the widespread scale, systematic nature, and institutional policy
motivating these crimes.
3. Create a specialized panel within the hybrid court to hear all pending cases related
to sexual violence and torture, prosecute perpetrators, recommend psychosocial
support, and grant com-pensation. Ensure that the panel, prosecutors, experts, and
staff have specialized training in in-vestigating sexual violence in conflict. Incorporate
video- conferencing technology and other means for securely gathering and
presenting evidence. Establish a special victim and witness protection unit for victims
of sexual violence, apart from broader witness protection schemes in place.

4. Vet all Sri Lankan security forces and dismiss those credibly alleged to have
engaged in sexual violence and other human rights abuses. We also endorse the
OISL recommendation to vet all security forces wishing to serve in UN peacekeeping
missions and call on the government to credibly and transparently investigate current
allegations of sexual abuse by Sri Lankan peacekeepers, especially in Haiti, before
allowing any further deployments.
5. Invite the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on conflict-related sexual
violence and the Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial killings and torture to visit Sri
Lanka in the coming months.
6. Above all, engage in extensive consultation and continuous outreach with womens
groups and war-affected communities to shape processes for truth, justice,
reparations, and guarantees of non-recurrence for sexual and gender-based violence
in conflict.
Issued by *Womens Action Network is a collective of eight womens groups that are
working in the north and the east.
Posted by Thavam