This report contains the findings of the Final Evaluation of the ‘Prevention of Police Torture Project’ in Sri Lanka.

Background of the project

The Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT) entered into an agreement with the Asian Human Rights Commission in 2004 and the two organisations have worked with local Sri Lankan human rights organisations ever since in the struggle against torture in Sri Lanka.

The overall goal of the project ‘Prevention of Police Torture in Sri Lanka’ was to achieve breakthroughs in terms of attitude, policy, and legislative changes and changes in the institutional practices of relevant government agencies in Sri Lanka. The victims of police torture in Sri Lanka were of primary concern. Project benefits were expected to accrue to the local network of civil organisations, to the general public and to Sri Lankan society at large. The total financial support to the AHRC and the local partners in Sri Lanka since 2004 amounted to DKK 7.363,000 (989.243 Euro).

The project model was based on a contextual analysis acknowledging that the local risk level is so high that effective advocacy on torture prevention cannot be undertaken solely from Sri Lanka. In other words: “What can be done when nothing can be done?”

From this perspective a three-tier action model was chosen with an outside support role for the AHRC to partners within Sri Lanka and where strategies at international, national and local level coalesce.

This evaluation

The final project evaluation covered the entire project period, 2004-2009.

The overall objective of the evaluation was to assess the model, the approach and the performance of the AHRC and the local organisations in relation to torture prevention in Sri Lanka. It was about relevance, effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability. In other words: “Are we doing the right things, are we doing things right?”

The evaluation mission was carried out by a team of two external evaluators.

The evaluation process involved participation of RCT and AHRC staff.

The context of this evaluation mission

The evaluation mission took place in a time of heightened tension due to the recent issue of the EC GSP+ report. The GSP report investigates whether Sri Lanka is living up to the commitments it made to respect international human rights standards when it became a beneficiary of the EU GSP+ trade incentive scheme. The report comes to the conclusion that Sri Lanka is in breach of its GSP+ commitments and that there are significant shortcomings in respect of three UN human rights conventions including the Convention against Torture (CAT). The report and the concomitant tension in international relations highlighted Sri Lanka’s poor standard on Human Rights including torture. This issue was very much in the background of the evaluation mission.

Another public issue that coincided with the evaluation mission was the incident where the Sri Lanka Police Constables beat a mentally ill Tamil boy and forced the boy to drown in the sea near Bambalapitya, Colombo, on 2nd November. The boy was beaten with wooden poles while pleading for mercy. It was the first time that an incident of torture was documented at length by video and telecast on news bulletins. The incident gave rise to an outcry of anger and reflects the unabated relevance of the police torture prevention project in Sri Lanka.


It is rare to undertake an evaluation where a partner is so well prepared in presenting its work to the evaluators. The evaluators attended excellent presentations at the AHRC offices in Hong Kong and with all partner organisations. Every request for additional documents was responded to immediately, and suggestions for more detailed or disaggregated data were expeditiously followed up. The participation in the partner workshop in Colombo was energetic and the ‘spirit’ in the workshop was high. We would very much like to thank the AHRC for their contribution. We also wish to thank the partners: Right to Life, SETIK, Home for Victims of Torture, Janasansadaya, Gampaha People’s Committee on Human Rights and the Centre for the Rule of Law. All of them have contributed to this evaluation.

We wish to thank RCT, and in particular Erik Wendt, for his overall support to this evaluation mission.

We are grateful to Liza Rowena Perdon who helped us in making the beautiful figures of this report.

We wish to thank the many survivors of police torture we spoke to in various meetings in Sri Lanka. Some of them are awaiting their cases pending at various courts for years; some of them are living under daily death threat; some of them are in hiding and trying to heal themselves in the Home for Victims of Torture; and all of them deserve the unabated support of the AHRC, the partner organisations, RCT and the international community in their quest for justice.

Amsterdam – Colombo

December 1st, 2009

Welmoed Koekebakker and Loreine dela Cruz