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Studies Find Torture by Indian Troops in Sri Lanka
Published Date: 08/07/2018 (Sunday)

By BARBARA CROSSETTE

Indian peacekeeping troops in pursuit of suspected Tamil militants or their supporters in northern and eastern Sri Lanka have beaten, tortured and killed local Tamil-speaking civilians, according to two recently completed human-rights reports.

Hundreds of people have been detained and dozens are reported to have disappeared in Indian Army custody, the reports said. The Indians have declined to cooperate with Sri Lankan courts, where they operate. It is unclear whose justice, if any, prevails in northeastern Sri Lanka.

The reports, one by Amnesty International and the other by the Jaffna University Teachers for Human Rights, also accused the Indian forces with retaliatory, often random, attacks on civilian neighborhoods after strikes by Tamil militants at Indian targets.

The Jaffna report, by a recently organized committee of Tamil scholars, said communities were sometimes shelled or set afire, and people shot indiscriminately.

The Jaffna Peninsula, at the northern tip of Sri Lanka, near the Indian mainland and the 55 million Tamils in the Indian state Tamil Nadu, is the traditional cultural center of Sri Lanka's Tamil minority.

The Amnesty study, ''Sri Lanka: Continuing Human Rights Violations,'' includes accusations of abuses by Sri Lankan troops and paramilitary forces who face violent Sinhalese militants in the south of the country.

Those violations are rising too, the report said, even though a state of emergency in force since 1983 was lifted in January, after the new President, Ranasinghe Premadasa, took office. Many death sentences have been commuted and prisoners released.

There are thought to be about 45,000 Indian troops in Sri Lanka, brought here under a July 1987 agreement between New Delhi and Colombo to disarm the Tamil separatist guerrillas. Sri Lankan troops, most drawn from the country's Sinhalese ethnic majority, were accused of brutality by India, and Sri Lanka agreed to withdraw them from Tamil areas under the pact.

Reports of Torture [ An Indian official in New Delhi said the peacekeeping force ''has a difficult and demanding role,'' adding, ''Wherever there have been instances of misbehavior by troops, and there have been a handful, the soldiers have been immediately court-martialed.'' The official said Tamil guerrillas had ''terrorized the Tamil population'' and added, ''We must remember that many statements in this situation are fabricated, made under coercion or duress and threat of force, of terrorism.'' ] Amnesty International, which has been documenting violations by Government forces for several years, said torture was found across Sri Lanka. Information from the Indian-controlled areas has only recently begun to be collected, however.

Prisoners detained by the Indians have been reported tortured with electric shock treatments or had bones broken, Amnesty International said. The number of torture victims is not known, nor are there figures for people who have died in detention.

The Jaffna report, which praised individual Indian officers for stopping the excesses of undisciplined troops, and criticized the guerrillas for exposing civilians to retaliation, detailed evidence of the destruction of several Tamil communities.

India has the world's fourth-largest army, and it has in the past had a reputation for discipline and professionalism. But it has never been called on to fight a guerrilla war like this one, and the toll on Indian morale has been reported high.

More than 900 Indians have died, and thousands have been wounded as the last of the Tamil guerrilla armies, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, continued to fight, turning their guns and explosives on Indian rather than Sri Lankan troops.

A few days ago, the Tigers, once trained and supplied by India, opened peace talks with the Sri Lankan President, bypassing New Delhi and the Indian Army. One of the Tigers' main demands is that the Indian forces be asked to leave.

Source: New York Times

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