Australian officials witness to Colombo-led torture

In how many countries is this kind of thing happening? Anything to keep those asylum seekers away from our shores is clearly the idea, whatever the human rights cost:

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) has expressed concern over the conduct of security forces working in cooperation with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in Sri Lanka.

Two former Christmas Island detainees arrested by Sri Lanka’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) after they were deported from Australia in 2009 claim to have been abused by members of the unit in the presence of an AFP officer.

Their lawyer, Lakshan Dias, says CID officers beat the men with wooden planks and threatened to rape their family members.

He says an AFP agent was visiting the CID headquarters in Colombo at the time.

“I was tortured. I was unable to pass urine for two days. I had unbearable pain in my body,” said one of the men, Sumith Mendis, 31.

The CID denies the allegations.

The AFP has been providing the CID with equipment, training and intelligence support in an effort to combat people smuggling in the area, as civilians attempt to flee Sri Lanka following the end of the country’s brutal 26-year civil war.

Mr Mendes and fellow ex-detainee Lasantha Wijeratna are being held at the country’s Negombo prison, charged with illegally attempting to flee Sri Lanka.

Prior to their imprisonment they spent more than seven months on Christmas Island after leaving for Australia on a fishing vessel in 2009.

They were arrested by Sri Lankan authorities in August 2010 after attempting to flee the country a second time.

The AFP strenuously denies witnessing the abuse but has confirmed one of its officers was in the building at the time.

“The AFP can confirm records indicate an AFP officer was present in the building on the day the offence was alleged to occur,” a spokesman told the ABC.

“At no stage did the AFP officer witness any mistreatment by CID officers of any persons held in custody.

“As part of the Sri Lankan legal process, all defendants appearing before court must first be examined by a judicial medical officer. The AFP has no knowledge of any concerns being raised.”

However, Amnesty International reported in March 2010 that the two men were hospitalised at the recommendation of a judicial officer.

According to the men’s lawyer, the AFP would have been aware of the abuses being carried out at the CID headquarters that day.

“There is no reason that the particular AFP officer [would] not have seen the interrogation and atrocities towards my clients, and my clients told me that they saw the AFP officer [witness] this interrogation,” Mr Dias said.

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