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The National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights 2011 – 2016 as well as the full series of  Sri Lanka Rights Watch are available at the Peace & Reconciliation Website.

Those in authority in Sri Lanka have long known that torture is a problem that needs addressing. This is not unique to Sri Lanka, and indeed our record is comparatively good as compared with what is done in countries that are critical about us. Some of those countries engage in contortions to convince themselves that they are not really evil, as with the American efforts to justify waterboarding – which is not perhaps the worst excess they indulge in. Others simply farm out their dirty work, as we have seen in the blind eyes turned to the programme of secret renditions on which the nastier aspects of the Western War on Terror relied so heavily.

Reading Craig Murray’s ‘Murder in Samarkand’, and his description of the hypocrisy of his colleagues in the British Foreign Office, as well as the then Home Secretary Charles Clarke, who fought to subvert a principle of British justice and allow material obtained under torture to be used in prosecutions, was extremely illuminating. But the fact that others engage in mischief is no excuse whatsoever, and it is important that Sri Lanka address the question and ensure remedial action to prevent any repetitions of aberrations – whilst also dealing through a transparent judicial process with such aberrations.

Both the government consultation, and the informal one I had conducted some weeks earlier, approached the problem in a positive spirit, looking at the difficulties police faced as well as the need to institutionalize safeguards. One problem brought to our attention is the inability to use statements made to the police in evidence. It seems – and I am subject to correction, for the whole area seems obscure – that this was a provision made by the British, but it does not in fact obtain in most jurisdictions. I should have thought this needs to be changed, so that material obtained through skillful interrogation is admissible – while of course there should be provisions for lawyers to be present during such interrogations.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

June 2012
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