Key Findings (I): Results and Outcome

Results vis-à-vis the project document

Results assessments are about project achievements vis-à-vis intended results.

This is basically the responsibility of an organisation and part of its monitoring and internal evaluation1. Human Rights organisations rarely manage to undertake result assessment in a comprehensive way. For the AHRC a logframe and systematic monitoring in the follow-up project may be useful. Some capacity building is recommended in this field, including for partner organisations.2

For an external evaluation the emphasis is generally not on results assessment, but on the outcome level. Still, this evaluation can, as far as the data are available, draw some conclusions on results.

The results of the Prevention of Police Torture Project are impressive. It is fair to say that few organisations would, with limited means, reach a similar level of effectiveness.3

The AHRC is among the NGOs having submitted the highest number of written statements in the history of the Human Rights Commission4. But, of course, these statements do not exclusively refer to torture.

It is not possible to ‘measure’ achievements versus intended outputs one-to-one, as the project document does not mention targets for intended outputs.5

The 2009 action plan though, does mention quantitative expected outputs6.

It is definitely not possible to measure achievements versus intended output for the partner organisations.

Annual project reports do mention outputs and examples of outcome in considerable level of detail. As for qualitative indicators for output mentioned in the project document7 these are in fact all indicators at outcome level and they cannot be assessed in terms of project output because these achievements depend on the interplay with other actors. (See below).

What, however, can be done at results level, is looking at the quality of the results actually achieved. This would mean: looking at the quality of the UAs, publications, trauma treatment etcetera. This, of course, again requires indicators for quality, which have not yet been developed for this project. In fact there is in the human rights sector at large no consensus about the kind of indicators that are appropriate for assessment of human rights interventions. There is also no consensus about the properties of indicators suitable for human rights impact and outcome assessments8.

– develop a logframe for the future project,
– undertake monitoring of results vis-à-vis expected results in a systematic way,
– Capacity Building on Results Based Management for AHRC and partners.

Outcome assessment

The overall objective (expected outcome) of the project was “to achieve significant breakthroughs in terms of attitude, policy, and legislative changes and changes in the institutional practices of relevant government agencies in Sri Lanka”9.

The expected overall outcome has been achieved only to a certain extent. The expected systemic breakthrough has not materialized. In assessing this negative outcome, the evaluation assessed whether this is to be attributed to: (a) The project: Has the objective been too ambitious? Was the design of the project inadequate (contextual analysis, objectives, strategies, activities, management, the network)? Have there been shortcomings at implementation level? Or/and: (b) Have there been major changes in the context?

Already in the first project visit by RCT, RCT assessed that “since November 2004, the political and security situation have changed rapidly”.10 In order to assess the dynamics of the project against the overall context, the evaluation ‘mapped’ the actors and factors determining project outcome in more detail (See next par). The evaluation concludes that as far as the overall project outcome has not been realized, this has to be attributed largely to the increasingly hostile context in which the project operated, in fact right from the outset of the project. The project start coincided with a deterioration of the overall political climate affecting the major actors and factors determining project outcome: the political system, the legal system, the war, and civil society.

Outcome assessment in the partner workshop

The evaluation mission organised a workshop with the five partner organisations. The main theme was “Results/Outcome/Impact assessment of Human Rights interventions, in particular of the Torture Prevention Project”. In a participatory exercise participants analysed the main underlying factors beyond the project’s control that influenced project outcome: (1) the political system, (2) the legal system, (3) the war, (4) civil society, and (5) international pressure. These were then set out on a timeline against the project timeline. See below.

Figure 4: Timeline of the Torture Prevention Project and Major Contextual Factors (I)

The timeline was a useful tool as it enabled a detailed analysis of the main contextual factors. These contextual factors were then summarized (in a simplified manner) in a graph visualising how the project operated in an increasingly hostile context right from the start. 
Figure 5: Timeline of the Torture Prevention Project and Major Contextual Factors (II)

Outcome assessment: public acknowledgement of police torture

The evaluation identified several outcomes that can be attributed to the project.
A major outcome is that “Torture is increasingly widely and publicly acknowledged in Sri Lanka”.

The evaluation conducted a detailed assessment of this outcome so as to carefully create credible linkages between the outcome and the project interventions, while accounting for other contextual factors and establishing attribution factor. The evaluation could thus establish that it is justified to conclude that this outcome can indeed be significantly attributed to the efforts and work of AHRC and its partners.

In assessing outcome evaluation works backwards from the outcome (see chapter 3).

The evaluation used the following outcome assessment model:

Assessment of outcome:
“Torture is increasingly widely and publicly acknowledged in Sri Lanka”

1. Outcome: There is a general acknowledgement that torture exists in Sri Lanka, and that it is practised by the police in a systematic way.
2. Indicators for this outcome:
– TV11, radio, media12
– public support to mass campaigns13
– acknowledgement by judiciary, lawyers14
– acknowledgement by GoSL and (representatives of) state institutions15
– awareness of CAT Act in Sri Lanka16
– victims coming forward17
– community and civil society support to victims18
3. Analysis of actors and factors contributing to this outcome: 
a. AHRC and partners 
– the type, number and quality of interventions by AHRC and partners; the cohesion of these interventions; the support base; the immediate, visible results of these interventions
– the credit given by other actors working on prevention of torture to AHRC w.r.t. their interventions; reference made to AHRC by other actors working on prevention of torture in SL19;
b. Other actors and factors working on prevention of torture in Sri Lanka:
– National – civil society
– National – Government
– International
4. Conclusion: it is justified to conclude that this outcome can be significantly attributed to the efforts and work of AHRC and its partners.

Outcome attributed to the project

The evaluation identified twenty-five (25) different outcomes that can be attributed to the project.

  1. Torture is increasingly widely and publicly acknowledged in Sri Lanka, includingby GoSL and (representatives of) state institutions.20
  2. Utilization of the Cat Act for criminalization of torture cases:21 A significant number of indictments in High Court have been filed by the Attorney General22. Five convictions where police officers have been found guilty of torture; two of these came from the AHRC23. There have been 17 acquittals. The majority of prosecutions are still pending in High Courts. The success of five court cases establishes the usefulness of the CAT Act as a tool to highlight the practice of police torture. It also shows that it has been extremely difficult to reach convictions24. The court cases may serve as a deterrent for police torture.25
  3. The AG’s department is well aware of the fact that the criminal justice process on torture cases is closely followed by a network of critical observers, national and internationally. 
  4. The establishment of a Special Investigation Unit on torture cases by the Attorney General’s department26. There is a credible link between the AHRC advocacy, UN pressure and establishment of the SIU.
  5. A reporting method has been established, which is now widely used. There is a system in place. A Rapid Response Mechanism. Within one or two hours an organisation can prepare a case with all requirements for local and international legal purposes. Within one or two hours of a torture incident an Urgent Appeal can land on the screen of a Special Rapporteur in Geneva. This is a remarkable achievement and the credit goes to the AHRC27.
  6. Independent commissions: Drafting a complaint making procedure for the National Police Commission, which was then officially adopted by the NPC. Credit goes to the AHRC as the AHRC drafted it on the invitation of the NPC chairman28.
  7. Supreme Court has been taking a proactive role. Supreme Court judges have acknowledged torture. Increased understanding among the judges. Several successful judgements.29
  8. State institutions: The Human Rights Commission adopting the zero policy on torture.
  9. Defense Forces directorate introduced a session on torture for their trainings30.
  10. Progress in establishing a witness protection law31
  11. Increased public awareness on the need to promote the 17th amendment to the Constitution;
  12. The issue of court delays has been put on the agenda32.
  13. Six UN Rapporteurs recognizing torture as an endemic rule of law problem in Sri Lanka33. Comprehensive reports by Special Rapporteurs on Torture, HR Defenders, Violence against Women, Extrajudicial killings, and Independence of Judiciary and Lawyers. An increase of cases taken up by these Rapporteurs with the GoSL in response to Urgent Appeals from AHRC, AHRC lobby, AHRC shadow reports to the Committees, and oral and written submissions by ALRC to the UNHR Commission and the UNHR Council34. Continuous recommendations and concluding observations of the Committee on ICCPR and the Committee on CAT asking the GoSL to take serious steps on the prevention of torture. This can be partly attributed to AHRC35.
  14. The establishment of new pathways in the UN Human Rights Committee to combat against torture in international forums36. The decisions and statements of the UN Human Rights Committee regarding four cases of police torture in Sri Lanka.37
  15. Increased EU pressure on the GoSL regarding Human Rights Violations including on torture38. Most recent example: GSP+ report39.
  16. Grassroots Participation has been created for knowledge generation, legal redress, pressure to GOSL, victim’s protection and empowerment.
  17. Tools have been created for an integrated approach to torture, including electronic media. The websites serve as infrastructure for institutional memories and custom references.40
  18. Partnership: a forum for local partners at grassroots level. Partnerships among victims, professionals and staff.
  19. Increased discourse among lawyers. 41
  20. The theoretical debate on root causes and determinants of torture has been strengthened and enriched, also internationally. The AHRC has contributed with a consequent emphasis on poverty as a root cause and the need for a theoretical framework that connects studies on torture with the Rule of Law.42
  21. A pool of knowledgeable and skilled staff and volunteers within the partner organisations.
  22. A pool of committed professionals (lawyers43, JMOs, prison authorities, researchers, writers).
  23. The creation of shelter and places of care. Pathways for protection.
  24. A pool of counsellors44.
  25. Outcome at individual level: Awareness, Care, Healing, Justice, Empowerment. Several victims say that they are strong again. There are indications that, as communicated by victims themselves, this can be partly attributed to the AHRC. Some of the victims show a remarkable personal development45.

It is justified to conclude that these outcomes46 can be significantly attributed to the work of the AHRC and its partners within the RCT supported project on Prevention of Police Torture in Sri Lanka. Altogether these changes amount to impressive project outcome, even though they have not (yet) been able to bring about the expected systemic changes.

Conclusion on the outcome of the project

The overall expected outcome of “a systemic breakthrough” on torture prevention has only been achieved to a certain extent.

This can definitely not be exclusively attributed to the project, as a closer analysis of the context in which the project operated shows that the project faced a huge number of ‘hindering factors’.

However a great number of significant positive outcomes were definitely realised that can be directly or to a considerable extent attributed to the work of AHRC and its partners within the RCT supported project on Prevention of Police Torture in Sri Lanka.

In view of the deterioration of the overall political climate in Sri Lanka coinciding with the start of the project, the virtual absence of the Rule of Law and the numbing of the civil society in the last four years (actually since the breakdown of the peace agreement), these outcomes cannot be underestimated.

They may appear to be significant pillars for human rights advocacy in the post-conflict era.

1 For this, a logframe is needed with a clear distinction between expected results, realised results, indicators and outcome, risk factors, hindering and facilitating factors et cetera.

2 Ideally, results assessments should also be expected from the partner organisations for the project components ‘delegated’ to them.

3 For details of results see AHRC annual reports to RCT. See also the successive project documents summarizing the results in previous project periods. Results are further documented in several publications. See also: “Summaries for Discussion for Evaluators”, unpublished document, November 2009.

4S. Puvimanasinghe 2006, p. 21, see

5 The project document provides a list of quantitative indicators for output, mentioning “a. number of complaints received, b. number or urgent appeals et cetera”, see Project document Nov 2005 p 19

6 There is a considerable variation in the data provided to the evaluators on number of cases handled (85 – 253)

7 Project doc Nov 2005 p 19

8 See chapter 3. In the discourse on Human Rights Impact Assessments different properties of indicators have been proposed.

9 Project doc Nov 2005 p 2. AHRC expected that “a major breakthrough would take place in 2005”. See RCT mission report November 2004 p. 8. “The analysis of openings for preventive activities against torture disclosed a positive prevention scenario”. Quoted in ToR Review Mission 2004, p 1.

10 RCT Mission report, October 2005, p.2. “The project started smoothly, but suddenly there was a regime change, and all these Draconian laws were launched.” S. Weerawickrame, 18.11.09

11 Several TV networks have covered torture; they cooperate with AHRC. Young Asia Television had a half-hour item on police torture in Sri Lanka on 12.11.09. Leading presentor Bakmeewewa closely cooperates with AHRC. AHRC organised an internet conference on police torture (June 2009), with experts in Hong Kong, cable TV experts in SL and international activists connected via internet. Bakmeewewa reported his analysis of changing public opinion on torture: “In earlier times public opinion saw torture as an indispensable mechanism for crime investigation, but now people widely understand that torture is used against innocent people. An alarming issue is that in recent years there has been again a switch in public opinion, in the sense that people see torture of Tamils as justified”. There is a divide along ethnic lines. Sirasa TV, a critical Sinhala/Tamil TV network, started a programme in prime time including items on police torture, investigations, ignorance of investigations by ‘independent commissions’ and repercussions on human rights defenders. AHRC is providing information but Sirasa has its own information network.

12 Media: English language media are seen as a primary vehicle for change in SL. Daily Mirror has covered torture extensively; this is regarded a breakthrough that can be attributed to the efforts of AHRC and its network (contributions from Basil, Shyamali, Kishali). An alternative newspaper, Rawaya, has regular contributions on torture, to a large extent through AHRC contributions. Overall few media are willing to pick it up.

13 The recent demonstration (Nov. 2009) against police torture viz. the drowning of a (Tamil, mentally retarded) boy was organised by Civil Rights Monitoring Committee. Some members of the partner network participated. Civil society / HR movement in SL is low profile and split along Tamil-Sinhala lines. Mobilising public support to anti-torture campaigns has been increasingly difficult in recent years but street pickets have been organised. Under emergency, regulation gatherings with more than 5 people are forbidden but at local level it is possible to hold campaigns. Police permission is not asked. Campaigns are organised by Janasansadaya, R2L, CC and HVT. One of the street movements by father Nandana gathered 1500 participants, in majority poor and Tamil.

14 Judiciary: Some senior judges have acknowledged torture – see list of quotations in Kishali Pinto 2008 p. 6.
Lawyers are aware of torture, the expertise of AHRC is acknowledged and there is cooperation between AHRC and lawyers organisations. However: “few lawyers, are willing to take up torture cases”, see International Crisis Group: 2009 p 20. Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD) organised a conference in November 2009 on torture prevention; AHRC was represented. CHRD gives credit to the work of AHRC; the director participated in AHRC and IRCT workshops on Istanbul protocol (2005, 2007) in SL. A major obstacle in the cooperation with lawyers is that torture of Tamils reportedly is “a subject by Tamil lawyers; Sinhala lawyers don’t want to raise it”. Sinhala lawyers are reluctant to take up cases of Tamil torture victims.

15 On several occasions GOSL and representatives of State institutions acknowledged the prevalence of torture and reported on steps taken to prevent torture. See statement of Min. of Foreign Affairs Lakshman Kadirgamar (2005) confirming the seriousness of police torture: Minister of Human Rights Mr. Samarasinghe reported to HRC (2007) that “GoSL has taken steps to prevent torture”; he urged the development of investigation skills (documented in UNHRC database). Radika Coomaraswamy, chairperson of the HRC-SL, reported a zero policy on torture. Steps to prevent and address torture include the creation of the Special Investigation Unit (2004 – documented in 2006 UN database); and the establishment of an Inter Ministerial Working Group to coordinate torture prevention work. The Minister of HR made written submissions to the UNHRC expressing the intention of the GoSL to take steps on witness protection; a witness protection bill was drafted and presented to parliament.

16 Awareness on CAT Act: “Before 2004 nobody knew about the Cat Act. It is problematic to estimate how many people now are aware of the CAT Act, but it is reported that the ‘public’ is more aware of the CAT Act than in earlier times”. In Asia only Hong Kong and Sri Lanka signed the CAT Act. AHRC has made a large number of advertisements on CAT Act. In 2005, before the elections, representatives from the Police Dept. organised discussions with major candidates for the presidential elections, urging them to abolish the Cat Act.

17 Number of torture cases documented has increased significantly since the inception of the project; the list of Urgent Appeals is steady since 2004. The project established mechanisms to articulate torture cases, this helped victims to understand that torture is practised in a systematic way and that there are many more  (potential) victims like themselves. It encouraged victims to come forward. The project definitely worked as a catalyst.

18 Community and civil society support to victims was created to support victims. Increasing acknowledgement at grassroot level that torture is practised in a systematic way and that it can be inflicted on any innocent person, especial vulnerable groups. The project introduced two new grassroots intervention concepts: Victims Groups and Victim’s Support Groups. Public participation in victims’ support groups has increased. The Victims’ Groups concept came from Janasansadaya, R2L and CC; the Victims’ Support Group concept came from HVT. Both groups got a lot of response. These groups continue to function as effective support and protection mechanisms. They are increasingly functioning in an independent way; financially they have always been independent. AHRC and partners try to empower them with knowledge about current cases and follow up.

19 Credit given and reference made to AHRC, nationally and internationally: See most recently the EU Report “The Implementation of certain Human Rights Conventions in Sri Lanka”, 30 September 2009 p 57-69, where reference is made to the work of AHRC and ALRC. See also the letter by Special Rapporteur Theo van Boven acknowledging the contribution of AHRC, quoted in next paragraph. See also International Crisis Group: Sri Lanka’s Judiciary: Politicised courts, compromised rights: Asia report no 172 – 30 June 2009, p 20. See also: Communication in UN meeting – C. Veliko – Nov. 2009: “I have not come across an NGO that looks so consistently at torture. AHRC has incredible precise information, it is impossible for GoSL to dismiss it”. See also: US State Department Annual Report 2007 “The State of Human Rights”, mentioning “48 cases reported by AHRC”. Recently, the International Commission of Jurists adopted the theme “Impunity and administration of Criminal Justice System”, where AHRC was invited to give a keynote address (October 2009). Centre for Human Rights and Development, Sri Lanka, inviting an AHRC resource person. IRCT, when organising the Istanbul Protocol 2005-2006, asked AHRC to make presentations, and lawyers attached to the AHRC network were invited to participate. The Sri Lanka Defense Forces Directorate introduced a session on torture in their trainings; they invited AHRC. Senior lawyer and dramaturg Wiramuni produced a play on torture; he documented himself with AHRC documents and oral information from AHRC.

20 See evidence documented in previous section.

21 Kishali Pinto-Jayawardene and Lisa Kois: Sri Lanka, The right not to be tortured, A critical Analysis of the Judicial Response, Colombo, LST, 2008 p 55-67;
Kishali Pinto-Jayawardene: “The rule of law in decline in Sri Lanka: Study on Prevalence, Determinants and Causes of Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Sri Lanka. Copenhagen, RCT, 2009, p 38

22 According to Chitral Perera, the number of indictments is 80, but figures have to be treated with care.

23 Anjalin Roshana and Piyadasa. The first three cases – around 2002 – did not come from AHRC.

24 E.g. one of the High Court Justices (name known) reportedly communicated that early 2006 High Court judges have, in response to the breakdown of the peace agreement, come to an informal agreement not to convict any of the police officers under the Cat Act as this may demoralize officers in their mission of combating terrorism.

25 Kishali Pinto regards the deterrent effect as minimal. See Kishali Pinto 2009 p 10.

26 2004. See earlier remarks on the start of AHRC’s interventions in 2001. The SIU has investigated quite a few cases in the early years of its existence. SIU was established as a branch of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Police Department. IGP Chandra Fernando in response to complaints from UN recruited the most talented investigators and handed these torture cases over to the SIU. The link is documented in court reports.

27 The courts use a special format. AHRC (with help of IRCT) developed a new format on how to comprehensively report torture cases for legal and medico-legal purposes.

28 See AHRC: Summaries for Discussion with Evaluators, November 2009, unpublished document.

29 In particular senior judges such as Mark Fernando. Fernando in the case of Gerald Perera:  “The number of credible complaints of torture (..) shows no decline”. See Kishali Pinto and Lisa Kois, p 6. See also: Case Law Supreme Court, in: Summaries for Discussion with Evaluators, p. 4.

30 AHRC was invited as trainer.

31 The murder of torture victim / complainant Gerald Perera in November 2004 led to intense campaigning for a witness protection law, followed up through several other cases including the case of Sugath Fernando. UNHRC pressurized the GoSL, GoSL drafted a law on witness protection, the draft law was submitted to parliament but as the political situation deteriorated this draft law was ‘swept under the carpet’.

32 Ministry of Justice appointed a Special Committee to look into the matter of court delays, causes and solutions. Former AG and Justice Deerarathna in the said committee brought out a report; this was handed over but it is not clear what happened to the report afterwards.

33 Theo van Boven (Special Rapporteur onTorture); Manfred Nowak (Special Rapporteur on Torture); Param Kumarasuami (independent judiciary); Radika Coomaraswami (Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, in her capacity as chairperson HRCSL); Philip Alsten (Extrajudicial Killings); Hina Gilani (Human Rights Defenders – special representative of the Sec. Gen. of the UN on Human Rights Defenders).

34 All accessible on internet, see HR Council database. There are hundreds of oral and written submissions made by ALRC (sister organisation of AHRC) to the UNHR Commission and the UNHR Council on torture in SL. See also RCT mission report Nov 2004 p 7.

35 Theo Van Boven, at the occasion of the termination of his mandate as Special Rapporteur on Torture, wrote to AHRC:  “Over the years I have been impressed by the work of the Asian Human Rights Commission, its quality, the vigour and persistence of its actions and its attachment to international human rights standards….”

36 AHRC filed 5 cases internationally at the UN HRC between 2004-2009: Tony Emanuel Fernando, Lalith Rajapakse, Dingribandha, Sugath Nishantha Fernando, Nimal Guneratne. See Lalith Rajapakse, CCPR/C/83D/1250/2004; Tony Fernando, CCPR/C/83/D/1189/2003. AHRC won 4 cases, that is: AHRC got the view of the Committee in favour of the victim, then they recommended the GoSL to give compensation to the victim, to which the Govt has not responded; one pending case is Sugath Nishantha.

37 OMCT should also be credited here. AHRC sees these decisions as massive victories: “The decisions of the (UNHR) Committee are heralded as massive victories in AHRC’s campaign against torture in Sri Lanka”. see S. Puvimanasinghe 2006, p 22-23;

38 The European Commission has released its final report on the findings of the investigation with respect to the effective implementation of certain human rights conventions (ICCPR, CAT and CRC) in Sri Lanka. The investigation was ordered in respect to concerns on the renewal of the favourable trade incentives – the GSP+ agreement – between EU and Sri Lanka. The conclusions are very clear that Sri Lanka has not effectively implemented these key conventions. See 145154.pdf.

39This outcome cannot be only attributed to AHRC but definitely to certain extent. The report contains references to the AHRC documents and to the study by Kishali Pinto on Decline of Rule of Law in Sri Lanka.

40 “One can safely conclude that the network made information available (..) that was previously inaccessible …” S. Puvimanasinghe 2006, p 24

41 AHRC has contributed. Torture was not part of the curriculum of legal studies in Sri Lanka; since around 2005 it has been integrated in the curriculum. Workshops on torture for lawyers have been organised by Centre f. Study of Human Rights (Colombo University), Caritas Sri Lanka, SETIK.

42 It is fair to say that AHRC has laid important groundwork for the debate with publications, awareness campaigns, urgent appeals, and resource materials. See also: B. Fernando and S. Weerawickrame, 2009 p 36.

43 On the need to have a pool of lawyers: International Crisis Group 2009, p 20

44 AHRC: “We introduced counselling as a method for healing”.

45 Tony Fernando became an activist organising torture victims in Canada.

46 The closest AHRC comes to “outcome assessment” is in the unpublished document: AHRC: Summaries for Discussion with Evaluators, November 2009.