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Sexual abuse rampant in Lanka refugee camps: Report

December 20, 2009 16:49 IST

A British medic, who was held for months in a "concentration camp" along with nearly 300,000 Tamil refugees, has revealed that Sri Lankan military guards sexually abused women prisoners frequently in the camp.

Vany Kumar, 25, who was locked up behind barbed wire in the Menik Farm refugee camp for four months, also claimed that Lankan guards traded sex for food. "Sexual abuse is something that was a common thing, that I personally saw. In the visitor area relatives would be the other side of the fence and we would be in the camp. Girls came to wait for their relatives and military officers would come and touch them, and that's something I saw," The Guardian quoted Kumar, as saying.

"Tamil girls usually don't talk about sexual abuse, they won't open their mouths about it, but I heard the officers were giving the women money or food in return for sex. These people were desperate for everything," she added. The Sri Lankan government confirmed to The Observer that it had received reports from United Nations agencies of physical and sexual abuse within the camps, but maintained that it had not been possible to substantiate the allegations.

Rajiva Wijesinha, the permanent secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, said: "There was a lot of sex going on. I can't tell you nothing happened, because I wasn't there. Individual aberrations could have happened, but our position is 'please tell us and they will be looked into.' We received a report that a soldier went into a tent at 11pm and came out at 3am. It could have been sex for pleasure, it could have been sex for favours, or it could have been a discussion on Ancient Greek philosophy, we don't know," he added.

Kumar, who was recently released after the Sri Lankan government bowed to international pressure this month and opened the camps, also mentioned about Sri Lankan government-run death vans, which took people with suspected Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam links away. "White vans hold a particular terror in Sri Lanka, where they are associated with the abduction of thousands of people by death squads. They were asking people to come in and take their names down if they had any sort of contact [with the Tamil Tigers]. They did an investigation and then a van would come in and they would take them away and nobody would know after that. I know people still searching for family members."

Source: ANI