Sri Lanka’s government faced increasing pressure on Saturday to answer for alleged human rights violations following a recent war crimes lawsuit and allegations from over 50 men who said they were raped, branded or tortured as recently as this year.
The men’s anguished descriptions of their abuses come nearly a decade after Sri Lanka’s civil war ended and days ahead of a review of the Indian Ocean nation by the UN’s top human rights body.
Doctors, psychologists, lawmakers and rights groups have appealed to the United Nations to investigate new allegations published by The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The AP reviewed 32 medical and psychological evaluations and interviewed 20 men who said they were accused of trying to revive a rebel group on the losing side of Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war.
Although combat ended in 2009, they say the torture and abuse occurred from early 2016 to as recently as July this year.
“Someone has to do something about this,” said Dr Frank Arnold, one of the several doctors who wrote to UN Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein and called for an independent investigation into the Sri Lankan torture allegations.
“As forensic experts, we have collectively seen many hundreds of Sri Lankans who have fled their country following torture over the years,” the physicians’ letter said. “We continue to receive a worrying number of cases from Sri Lanka despite the change of government.”
One of the men in the AP investigation said he was held for 21 days in a small room where he was raped 12 times, burned with cigarettes, beaten with iron rods and hung upside-down.
Another man described being abducted from home by five men, driven to a prison, and taken to a “torture room” pocked with blood splatters on the wall.
Most of the men say they their captors identified themselves as members of the Criminal Investigations Department, a police unit that investigates serious crimes.
Some, however, said it appeared their interrogators were soldiers.