[JURIST] Sri Lankan Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe Wednesday dismissed claims [press release] made earlier this week by UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak that torture was widespread and routine [JURIST report] throughout Sri Lanks. Samarasinghe said that in meetings with officials in Sri Lanka [JURIST news archive], Nowak indicated his use of the phrase "widely practiced" meant that torture allegations came from people in diverse locations rather than that it was a common, systematic practice. Samarasinghe added that Nowak's conclusions did not take into account Sri Lankan efforts to comply with his preliminary recommendations, which included the adoption of a "zero-tolerance" policy on torture.
Earlier this month, Samarasinghe rejected a proposal [JURIST report] by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official website] that would place a UNOHCHR monitoring mission in the country. Sri Lanka has been in a drawn-out conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [CFR backgrounder] rebel group for two decades, with fighting escalating in 2006. Human rights groups have pointed to abuses by both sides in the conflict, but have lately accused the government of an increased number of violations [JURIST report]. AFP has more.