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Monday, 28 January, 2002, 15:10 GMT
'Rape by Sri Lanka police grows'
Tamil women and girl fleeing
Tamil women have suffered grievously in the civil war
Frances Harrison

The London-based human rights organisation Amnesty International says there has been a marked increase in cases of alleged rape by the Sri Lankan security forces in the last year.

Amnesty called on the newly elected government to send a clear message to the army, police and navy that sexual violence in custody would not be tolerated.

The timing of the appeal is interesting as it comes against the backdrop of efforts by both sides in the country's civil war to prepare the ground for peace talks.

Serious allegations have been made against soldiers

Amnesty International says the majority of incidents of alleged rape occurred in the context of Sri Lanka's civil war.

This means that the victims were almost certainly women from the Tamil minority.

One particular case from last year was mentioned.

Two young women in the northern island of Mannar were stripped naked, gang raped, beaten and paraded naked in front of police officers.

Their hands and feet were tied to a pole and they were suspended for an hour and a half while being beaten once again with thick wire.

But Amnesty's report says that complaints of rape and other forms of torture are often not dealt with effectively by the Sri Lankan police and judiciary.

Peace hopes

As a result, the organisation says deficiencies in the early stages of the criminal investigation process repeatedly lead to the collapse of the case against the alleged perpetrators.

The report notes that despite ratifying anti-torture conventions, to date, not one member of the Sri Lankan security forces has been found guilty in a court of law of rape in custody.

Amnesty says the new government in Sri Lanka must now do everything in its power to prevent grave sexual abuse of detainees.

PM Wickramasinghe
Pressure on the government of Ranil Wickramasinghe to act

It says the government should send a message to the security forces that such violations will not be tolerated.

It also suggests the government establish an independent investigative body to look into human rights abuses, including rape.

The appeal from Amnesty comes at a time when the Sri Lankan Government is trying to create a new climate of good will with Tamil Tiger rebels in the hope of finding a way out of the ethnic conflict.

An economic embargo on rebel areas has been eased and last week the Tamil Tigers released 10 prisoners of war.

The expectation on the rebel side is that the Sri Lankan Government would respond now with steps to release some Tamil political detainees or at the very least bring them to trial.

See also:

23 Jan 02 | South Asia
The scars of Sri Lanka's war
22 Jan 02 | South Asia
Sri Lanka mulls lifting rebel ban
21 Jan 02 | South Asia
Sri Lanka rebels release war prisoners
21 Jan 02 | South Asia
Sri Lanka matches Tigers ceasefire
16 Jan 02 | South Asia
In the Tamil Tiger heartland
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