Amnesty International is today calling on the Sri Lankan government to ensure the safety of three men who have been tortured and jailed following their forced return from Australia in 2009.
Two of the men, Sumith Mendis and Lasantha Wijeratne, were transferred to a hospital to be examined by a judicial medical officer on 1 September amid claims that they were beaten and tortured following an alleged new attempt to seek asylum in Australia. It is not clear if they are still in hospital or have returned to prison. All three are at risk of further abuse from guards and prisoners when they are returned to prison where Sumith’s brother, Indika, is already being held.
“This is an appalling situation that calls into question the actions of both the Sri Lankan and Australian governments,” said Madhu Malhotra, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Asia.
“Both governments are culpable in the forced return and mistreatment these men have endured, and both must bear responsibility for the results of their policies and procedures.”
Sumith Mendis and Indika Mendis were detained in 2009 at the Christmas Island detention centre after the boat they were on was stopped by Australian authorities and found to be carrying Sri Lankan asylum seekers.
They were deported to Sri Lanka and promptly arrested and handed over to the Central Investigative Department (CID). Sumith Mendis was released, but Indika Mendis was tortured in CID custody, sustaining severe ear injuries before being transferred to the notorious Negombo prison where he was held for eight months.
On 14 August 2010, the brothers were arrested again, apparently on suspicion that they were again planning to seek asylum in Australia. Sumith Mendis was then tortured by the CID for six days, experiencing beatings and psychological abuse.
On 22 August, the brothers were taken to Negombo prison, along with Lasantha Wijeratne, another Sri Lankan who had also been deported from Australia and tortured in custody.
Following examination by a judicial medical officer, Sumith Mendis and Lasantha Wijeratne were transferred to the hospital.
They now face the risk of abuse by both prisoners and guards when they are again taken to Negombo prison unless authorities take the necessary steps to ensure their safety.
“The Sri Lankan authorities must ensure that all three men are not subject to any more torture or ill-treatment, either at the hands of the CID or prisoners or guards in Negombo prison,” said Madhu Malhotra.
“The Australian government must re-examine its claims that asylum seekers returned to countries they are fleeing from are not subjected to torture and mistreatment.”