* Sri Lankan envoy dismisses report
* Rapes punishments, to extract confessions - report
* UK urged to review asylum for Sri Lankans at risk
(Adds call for UK to review asylum policy)
By Nita Bhalla
NEW DELHI, Feb 26 Sri Lanka's security forces
have used rape to torture and extract confessions from suspected
Tamil separatists almost four years after the country's civil
war ended, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report on Tuesday.
The rights group documented 75 cases of predominately Tamil
men and women who said they were held in Sri Lankan detention
centres and repeatedly raped and sexually abused by the
military, police and intelligence officials.
The victims - now living as asylum seekers, most of them in
Britain - said once they confessed to being a member of the
Tamil Tiger rebel group, the abuse generally stopped and they
were allowed to escape by paying a bribe.
"We found that rape was used to secure some sort of
confession, but also as a political tool to punish people,"
Meenakshi Ganguly, the rights group's South Asia director, told
a news conference in New Delhi.
Other victims said they were "severely tortured, burnt by
cigarettes and hung upside down," he added.
Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to New Delhi, Prasad
Kariyawasam, said he had no evidence to suggest the allegations
of abuse, which the rights group said occurred from 2006 to
2012, were true.
The envoy said the testimonies of 41 women, 31 men and three
boys were likely made by "economic refugees" who "need a good
story" to get asylum.
"Until we do a proper inquiry, we have to believe that these
are all sob stories for the sake of obtaining asylum or refugee
status in a developed country," Kariyawasam told Reuters.
He said the report was "a well-timed effort" to discredit
Sri Lanka ahead of a vote on a U.S.-backed resolution
criticising it at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva this
CIGARETTE BURNS, BITE MARKS
Tens of thousands of civilians were killed in 2009, in the
final months of a war that began in 1983, a U.N. panel said, as
government troops advanced on the last stronghold of the rebels
fighting for an independent homeland.
The U.N. panel said it had "credible allegations" that Sri
Lankan troops and the Tamil Tigers both carried out atrocities
and war crimes, and singled out the government for most of the
responsibility for the deaths.
Sri Lanka has come under international pressure to bring to
book those accused of war crimes and boost efforts to reconcile
a polarised country.
It has rejected allegations of rights abuse and resisted
pressure to allow an independent commission to investigate war
crimes committed by its army, saying that it is has its own
plan to deal with the issue.
But Human Rights Watch said, despite the end of the war, no
one had been prosecuted and human rights violations of Tamil
Tiger supporters continued. Thirty-one cases of rape and torture
in the report had been documented since 2009.
"Many of the medical reports examined by HRW show evidence
of sexual violence such as bites on the buttocks and breasts,
and cigarette burns on sensitive areas like inner thighs and
breasts," the group said.
At the Geneva meeting, the United States is expected to
sponsor a resolution for the second time censuring Colombo and
urging it to prosecute soldiers suspected of killing civilians.
Britain, Canada and the European Union, where there is a
large presence of Tamil refugees and asylum seekers, are
expected to support the resolution.
Human Rights Watch also said Britain needed to review its
asylum policy to ensure that people who are forcibly sent back
to Sri Lanka are not at risk of torture and ill-treatment on
The group's UK director, David Mephan, told Reuters a flight
carrying 60 Sri Lankan nationals was scheduled to leave Britain
for Sri Lanka on Thursday and there was a chance some of them
might be at risk.
The UK Border Agency defended its systems saying people who
could show they were at risk of being tortured were offered
(Additional reporting by Maria Caspani in London; Editing by
John Chalmers and Robert Birsel)