WION and Padma Rao Sundarji, courtesy of WION, 18 November 2017, where the title is “Tamil torture wounds may have been self-inflicted: Lord Naseby”
Last week, 50 Sri Lankan Tamil men used an international news agency to make a damning accusation: that they were raped and tortured by Sri Lankan authorities on suspicion of being members of the separatist terror group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), against whom Sri Lanka fought a bloody, 30-year-long civil war. By the time the war ended, more than 120,000 people had been killed. But the conflict ended in 2009. These men say they were tortured in 2016. Why did they wait so long to speak up? British parliamentarian Lord Naseby knows Sri Lanka intimately, having been associated with it for 45 years. He heads a parliamentarian group supportive of Sri Lanka in England’s House of Lords. And he spoke to WION in an exclusive about the latest charges and possible motives.
Sri Lanka’s long civil war has been marked by the frequent surfacing of fake videos and doctored evidence, more often than not, at the hands of sections of the very powerful global Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, who supported, armed and financed the terror group LTTE. The network is so powerful and well-connected that they gathered several media concerns and NGOs as supporters of their cause along the way.
Sri Lanka has been under sustained fire for alleged human rights violations during the long war. Like in any conflict in the world, excesses were not unknown. However, why would a country already under international scrutiny, torture prisoners seven years after the end of the war? Lord Naseby’s earlier revelation based on confidential reports had already caused a sensation in the House of Lords. He had accessed confidential reports from the UK Defence Attache in Sri Lanka, figures cited by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the UN spokesperson and by the US ambassador to Sri Lanka – all during 2009, the last year of war. They revealed that the casualty figures of the last phase of the war had been mysteriously altered and upped seven-fold by the United Nations. From an accepted estimate of a total of 5000-7000 deaths which included troops, LTTE cadres and civilians, the UN – ostensibly under pressure from pro-LTTE lobby groups – had hiked the figure up to 40,000. Lord Naseby’s remarks to WION’s Mandy Clark in London on the latest torture allegations are no less revealing.
“This report is quite interesting because we are now nearly at the end of 2017. So one wonders why it’s taken so long to come out?” asks Lord Naseby. “Of course, if there was torture of that nature, then it’s entirely unacceptable. However, I have observed two things. Firstly, we had the case of an asylum-seeker here in the UK just some months ago. He had similar burns on his arms and back. But the conclusion of the Appeals judge was, that these wounds had been self-inflicted. And that he must have had some help to do it. And besides, the injuries are far too clearly defined for them to have been done by anybody who was roughing somebody up.
“The Appeals judge had rejected the case mentioned by Lord Naseby in April 2017, calling the injuries ‘self-inflicted by proxy’. Rumors of several unscrupulous doctors in the UK offering their services to Sri Lankan Tamils and other asylum-seekers to mutilate them under anaesthesia refuse to die down too. But WION correspondent Clark asked the British MP what made him confident that the latest report was a sham.
“I go to Sri Lanka about once a year,’’ explained Lord Naseby.” “And I make it a particular point to see the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) there. I do so in their headquarters and I meet nobody there other than the head of the ICRC. I have asked them three times now: have you, the ICRC, who have access, to all the prisons including the high-security ones, immigration areas, police stations, are in all the prisons, also the high-security prisons ever come across torture as defined under the Geneva Convention in any form or other, this previous year? And the answer has been: ‘No we have not. We’ve come across some heavy handling but nothing of what these men are alleging.”
Lord Naseby points to “heavy handling” all over the world, referring to Guantanamo Bay, the US high-security prison for terrorists. “I don’t believe there is anything of that nature being done in Sri Lanka. Sure, there may be the odd case but – I’d like to see the real evidence from these particular young men who have made the charge.”
The controversial film of the men alleging torture does not present the credentials of the medical professionals who must have examined the wounds to determine how they were inflicted. But it begs the question: can doctors really tell by looking at a wound whether it was violently inflicted by a third party, or clinically inflicted in agreement with the “patient”? No, says Lord Naseby, citing his own wife, a doctor. But the politician says he can understand the motives behind such acts.
”It’s a very great temptation for people desperate to stay in the West, to self-inflict, “ he says. “People like to come to the UK because they can have a better life here. And whether these men were LTTE supporters or not, is of no concern to me. But if I were one, I too would be really tempted to try and stay. And if you’re a former LTTE, what are a few burns on your body if you can get asylum through that mechanism? It would be a small price to pay.
Lord Naseby’s main contention is that the ICRC is a neutral body with no political affiliations and nothing to hide. The strength and robustness of Colombo’s response, too, gives the British MP the clear indication that the torture may not have happened. For now, he is not going to pursue the investigation of the latest charges, preoccupied as he is with compiling more evidence on the fudged casualty figures, to present a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council. But, if the charges made by the 50 men are also proven false, they will add fuel to the huge fire Lord Naseby’s revelations on Sri Lanka will ignite, both in the House of Lords and in Colombo’s parliament, thousands of kilometres away.
Padma Rao Sundarji… also the author of Sri Lanka–The New Country … http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/40054
SOME VITAL ITEMS
Amanda Hodge and Stuart Rintoul: “Allegation: ‘Tortured’ Tamil put back on plane to Lanka,” 26 July 2012, https://thuppahis.com/2012/07/26/allegation-tortured-tamil-put-on-a-plane-back-to-sri-lanka/ ... ITEM from The Australian of same date
Michael Roberts: “Deported from Britain: Back to Ordinariness or ‘Duress’ in Sri Lanka,” 10 August 2012, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/deported-from-britain-back-to-ordinariness-or-duress-in-sri-lanka/
ALSO SEE ITEMS indicating the BROADER CONTEXT
* “Michael Morris, Baron Naseby,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Morris,_Baron_Naseby
* “Lord Michael Naseby challenges the dominant British narrative on Sri Lanka,” 15 June 2014, https://thuppahis.com/2014/06/15/lod-michael-naseby-challenges-the-dominant-british-narrative-on-sri-lanka/
- Jeyaraj, D. B. S. 2009 “Wretched of the Wanni Earth break Free of Bondage,” http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/380 and Daily Mirror, 25 April 2009.
- Carment, David & Yiagadeesen Samy 2013 “Dangerous game of ‘diaspora politics’ is here to stay,” 17 May 2013, http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/05/17/ dangerous_game_of_diaspora_politics_is_here_to_stay.html.
- Michael Roberts 2011 “Incorrigible Watch-Dogs of the Human Rights World,” 30 November 2011, https://thuppahis.com/2011/11/30/incorrigible-watch-dogs-of-the-human-rights-world=2/#more-4355
- Al-Jazeera features Panel Discussion on Human Rights Issues in Sri LankaIn “accountability” Groundviews on Disappearances and the OMPIn “accountability”
- Sri Lanka Media Watch 2012 “An Unreliable Witness. Gordon Weiss, The Cage and Sri Lanka,” http://webdesginottawa.me/slembassyparis/index.php?option=com_content& view=article&id=745%3Aan-unreliable-witness-gordon-weiss-the-cage-and-sri-lanka-&catid=100%3Aheadlines&Itemid=313&lang=en.
- “The Missing: An Annotated Bibliography,” 3 Septmeber 2016, https://thuppahis.com/2016/09/03/the-missing-in-lanka-an-old-bibliography-further-supplemented/