COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – A group of United Nations human rights experts said Friday that Sri Lanka has yet to respect individual rights, with people kept in custody for excessive periods pending investigations, and reliance on confessions that are often extracted under torture or duress.
A three-member delegation of the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded a 10-day visit to the island nation on Friday.
They told reporters that individuals are being deprived of their rights in a range of facilities such as police stations, prisons, open work camps, centers for juveniles, mental health institutions and rehabilitation camps for former combatants and drug addicts.
"The right to personal liberty has yet to be respected by law enforcement, security forces, judicial and other authorities," the experts said in a statement.
They called for reforms to address problems including excessive use of detention, a lack of effective alternatives to detention, an outdated legal framework and reliance on confessions, often extracted under duress.
They said detainees in general do not enjoy basic guarantees of due process such as immediate access to legal counsel.
The experts said they were given free access to detention facilities including Joseph Camp, a military installation in the north which human rights groups say was a notorious torture site during the country's long civil war and soon after its end in 2009.
According to an Associated Press investigation, about 50 men now in Europe said they were tortured by Sri Lankan authorities as recently as last July, and some believe it occurred at Joseph Camp.
U.N. expert Jose Guevara said the group was told that the camp has not been used for civilian detention for a long time, and they did not see anything out of the ordinary there.