Witness Reports

Sri Lanka

Wmc Maptempalte Sri Lanka Js3

First-person testimonies are hard to obtain in communities still threatened by rape and ethnic-political violence. Human Rights Watch has published what is likely the most comprehensive set of testimonies to date, though they state that the testimonies are limited to stories of rape in detention, as opposed to those within villages, battlefields, and other settings.

A 27-year-old woman whom HRW calls DV told researchers that army personnel abducted her from her home after she had lodged a complaint about the illegal detention of her husband several days earlier. She described the slur they used as well as the sexualized violence:

The officials who came for me behaved indecently. They abused me and called me a "Tamil bitch" in Sinhala. They pushed me into a van. I was held face down in the van. They drove me for an hour, then stopped and took me out. I was taken to a small, dark room where they recorded my details. I later came to know that they took me to Panagoda army camp.
They started questioning me. They asked me about my husband’s involvement with the LTTE. They beat me with sticks and wires. Always, the questions were followed by beating. They sexually harassed me during the questioning. They touched me indecently and told me I was beautiful. There were always two or three people who questioned me and tortured me. They showed me some photographs and asked me to identify the LTTE members. The officials who questioned me were in Sri Lankan army uniform.
At night, I was left alone in the room. On the first night, two officials came to my room and dragged me to another room that looked like the duty officer's room. There was a bed in the room. The two officials raped me one after the other on the floor.

DV told Human Rights Watch her uncle had to pay a bribe to a brigadier at the Panagoda army camp in order to get her released. Even so, she was released on “reporting conditions,” meaning that she was required to make regular visits to the police station following her ordeal.

A 25-year-old woman called UM recounted how security forces raped her repeatedly. UM had first fled Mullivaikal in April 2009, in the last weeks of the war, and was then detained at Arunachalam camp. In 2009, she told HRW, army personnel took her to another camp:

They questioned me about my links with the LTTE and asked about my activities. I said I was forced to work for LTTE and didn’t know anything. They didn’t believe me. They beat me, pulled my hair, and banged my head on a wall. They beat me with their hands and kicked me with their boots. One of the soldiers said, "We will teach you a lesson." I lost consciousness that day and when I came to, I realized I had been raped. Then more soldiers came and raped me. This went on for many days. I can’t remember how many times and how many soldiers raped me.

Rapes have continued since the war’s end. A 29-year-old Tamil man told HRW how officials raped him after arresting him in April 2012—three years after the war was officially declared “over”:

The police officials accused me of being an LTTE member and returning to Sri Lanka from abroad to revive the LTTE. They blindfolded me and pushed me into a jeep. They kept asking me the same questions, about which other LTTE members I worked with, my activities abroad. I kept refusing to answer. I was beaten up with several objects, burned with cigarettes, suspended from the ceiling, sexually abused, and raped. I was raped by different people for three nights—it was dark so I couldn’t tell their faces.