Leading rights groups, Human Rights Watch, the Human Rights Law Centre, Amnesty International Australia, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, and the Castan Centre for Human Rights, called for a retraction of remarks on torture in Sri Lanka made by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott November 15, 2013. Abbot had said that while his government "deplores the use of torture we accept that sometimes in difficult circumstances difficult things happen."
Elaine Pearson, Australia director of Amnesty responded: “Torture is always illegal and immoral, and there is no exception for ‘difficult circumstances.’” Abbott’s remarks give cover to torturers in Sri Lanka and elsewhere, and he should retract them immediately.”
The rights group, in a joint letter to the Australian Prime Minister, wrote: "Torture is immoral and illegal. The right to be free from such mistreatment is among the most fundamental and unequivocal human rights. Torture prohibited under both Australian Law and international law treaties to which Australia is a party. Australia is also a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which includes torture among grave crimes in violation of international law.
The letter further said, "In relation to Sri Lanka, your statement wrongly suggested that torture was confined to the country’s [Sri Lanka’s] three-decade long conflict. However, there is considerable evidence that torture by Sri Lankan state offifcials has continued beyond the end of the civil war in May 2009. Human Rights Watch has documented at least 50 cases of rape and sexual violence, accompanied by other forms of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by Sri Lanka’s security forces against persons in custody since the conflict’s end…."
The letter concluded, "We urge you to make a strong public statement that the Australian government always deplores the use of torture, which cannot be justified in any circumstances."