Diplomat rejects claims Sri Lanka forces rape Tamil detainees

Diplomat rejects claims Sri Lanka forces rape Tamil detainees

Diplomat rejects claims Sri Lanka forces rape Tamil detainees

Updated 27 February 2013, 14:12 AEST

Sri Lanka's top diplomat in Australia has rejected claims Sri Lankan security forces use rape as a policy against suspected Tamil Tiger sympathisers.

Sri Lanka's top diplomat in Australia has rejected claims the Sri Lankan Government is using rape and sexual assault as a way of extricating confessions from suspected Tamil Tiger sympathisers.

A Human Rights Watch report has detailed what it says is widespread rape and torture by Sri Lankan security forces.

Their report comes after 75 Sri Lankan Tamils, male and female, recounted their experiences of torture, rape and forced confessions.

Sexual violence was common during Sri Lanka's civil war, that ended in May 2009, but Human Rights Watch says the use of sexual assault continues.

Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to Australia, Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe, has dismissed the claims as "baseless".

"The government of Sri Lanka is totally rejecting it," he told Radio Australia's Connect Asia.

"People who make these allegations forget the terrorists who were doing various atrocities."

Sri Lanka has long denied any involvement with the detention and torture of Tamils but admits it recognises them as a terrorist group and wants its members to be brought to justice.

Individual cases

Human Rights Watch says the abuse is commonly used against Tamils who are picked up by security forces after returning to Sri Lanka, be it voluntarily, or after being rejected for asylum by countries such as Australia.

With the Australian Government's immigration policy geared towards stemming the tide of asylum seekers, it and the Opposition are being urged by Human Rights Watch to reconsider their policies.

"Our request to all these governments is that they have to look at each case in a particular manner where they have to understand that a lot of the Tamils had no choice," Meenakshi Ganguly, Human Rights Watch's Asia director, said.

"When they were in the diaspora community or even when they were living in Sri Lanka, they had no choice when they were associating with the LTTE [Tamil Tigers].

"When they're going back, they're being punished for that association.

"And therefore their cases have to be treated on a case by case basis, not only looking at an aversion to a huge flow of refugees coming into that country."

Summit boycott

The Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, says he is standing by his threat to boycott the Commonwealth summit in the Sri Lankan capital later this year.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General has urged Canada to drop its threat which was made over allegations of war crimes committed there during the civil war.

But Prime Minister Harper says he is concerned about worsening conditions in the country since making the statement.

He says he won't attend the summit unless the government addresses alleged atrocities.

Canada has been stepping up its pressure on Sri Lanka, reporting it to the Commonwealth for allegedly violating the organisation's democratic values by ignoring two court rulings and sacking the country's Chief Justice.

Sri Lanka denies allegations that government troops killed up to 40,000 civilians while battling Tamil rebels.