The Government asserts that widespread torture is not practised in Sri Lanka, as claimed in a report by a UN special envoy but, instead, is occasionally resorted to by over-zealous investigative personnel in pursuance of ascertaining the truth behind crime and in the collection of evidential material to launch prosecutions against perpetrators of crime.
Deputy Solicitor General Shavindra Fernando says the government has sought the assistance of the Special Rapporteur on Torture,
Manfred Nowak, with regard to the policy and legal issues relating to criminalizing torture and prosecuting torturers.
The comparative legal perspectives that the Special Rapporteur could give Sri Lanka would prove invaluable in initiating legal and policy reforms, a statement quoted the Deputy Solicitor General as saying.
A report by the Special Rapporteur was submitted to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session on Monday and mentioned specific incidents of torture in Sri Lanka. The report also alleged that torture was widespread in Sri Lanka.
The delegation of Sri Lanka wishes to reiterate its reservations with regard to the use of words by the Special Rapporteur to the effect that torture is widely practiced in Sri Lanka. As stated in its communication of 10th October 2007, and in subsequent communications, the delegation recalls the clarification sought by the Government, during the debriefing session for the Government conducted by the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Fernando said.
Nowak visited Sri Lanka in October last year on a fact finding mission, and later briefed the government on his findings. According to the government, however, Nowak witnessed evidence of torture, not only in relation to the conflict and in proximity to conflict areas, but also in other areas in Sri Lanka.
The Government noted that the Special Rapporteur had stated that what he meant was that he concluded that instances of torture could be seen at diverse locations but was not systemic in the criminal justice or law enforcement systems. This confirmed the findings of the confidential inquiry by the Committee against torture, under Article No. 9 of the Convention, that there was no systematic torture in Sri Lanka.
With regard to the opening of an office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Sri Lanka, Mr. Fernando reiterated the government s position that what was needed in Sri Lanka was the strengthening of national institutions for the protection of human rights.