UK ' ignoring Sri Lanka torture'

Place: Sri Lanka | Courtesy: BBC
| Date: 20000626

By: South Asia analyst Jannat Jalil

A report by a human rights group based in London accuses the UK of ignoring evidence that many Tamil asylum seekers from Sri Lanka have been tortured.

The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture is published to coincide with the UN International Day in support of torture victims, and is based on the medical examination of 49 Tamils, two of them women, who have recently arrived in Britain.

Home Office: Denies ignoring evidence The foundation says they were systematically tortured by the Sri Lankan police and army.

It says more than half of the Tamils in the study were suspended upside down and made to inhale noxious fumes, and a quarter of them suffered sexual abuse, including repeated rape.

So far, seven of them have been refused asylum, while the rest are still awaiting a decision from the Home Office.

Evidence 'ignored'

The foundation's research officer, Mary Salinsky, says evidence of torture is often ignored or side-stepped by Home Office officials and she says this should change unless the evidence is challenged by a medical expert of equal standing.

A Home Office spokesman denied this was the case, saying that all evidence was considered in every asylum application.

The report points out that before 1994, 93% of Tamil asylum seekers were allowed to stay, but since then 95% of applicants have been refused - although a large number of decisions were overturned on appeal.

The authors of the report says it shows the danger of any attempt to base asylum decisions on a safe countries list - an idea that has been put forward by the British Home Secretary, Jack Straw, as part of his government's response to domestic concerns about the increasing number of asylum-seekers arriving in Britain.

The Tamil Tigers are also accused of torture and many other human rights violations during their 17-year long struggle for a separate homeland in which more than 60,000 people have been killed.