Key Findings (II): Assessments of the preventive strategies

The project is relevant, effective, and there are reasons to believe that it has sustainable impact.

The AHRC model is unique in several ways: 1) as an integrated approach to torture combining service delivery and advocacy at grassroots level with high profile advocacy at regional and international levels; 2) In addressing torture the project effectively combines three interrelated intervention areas: prevention, rehabilitation and protection. 3) The project uses a human rights based approach to torture prevention.

These are outstanding features of the project.

1. Relevance

The relevance of the project is beyond doubt:
1. The project is highly relevant to the context in Sri Lanka, and certainly also to the Human Rights context and the Rule of Law,
2. The project is relevant to international Human Rights institutions,
3. The project is relevant for organisations working on Human Rights and torture prevention elsewhere in the world – the approach used, the lessons learned, 
4. The contribution of partner organisations is absolutely relevant within the project,
5. The project components are all highly relevant for the project. This can even be said for the project components that have been “added on the way”,
6. The approach, the messages, the project activities have been appropriate within the project and as such relevant for the project outcome,
7. The project was definitely relevant to the target population – the victims of torture.  
8. The project is relevant to RCT as it has contributed to the achievement of RCT’s policy targets for 20151.

2. Effectiveness and efficiency

The project is highly effective. It is unusual to find a project working with (relatively) limited resources with a similar level of effectiveness.

The effects of the projects are many; they are listed and quantified. They include successful court cases, dozens of letters to the Government of Sri Lanka, hundreds of Urgent Appeals, a huge number of publications etcetera. Victims’ solidarity groups and citizen’s committees in rural villages are indications of torture awareness among grass roots communities. They constitute effective and relevant mechanisms for victim’s support at grassroot level.

Victims have articulated their awareness and empowerment and they mention that the help of the partner organisations has been effective and “invaluable” for them.

The focus on police torture (rather than a wide range of HR concerns) was appropriate in terms of effectiveness (‘hammering effect’), efficiency (maximizing output in view of organisational capacity) and organisational identity.

Integrating a stronger gender perspective in the organisation and in the project activities is expected to enhance the project’s effectiveness. For example, attention for gender specific rehabilitation needs could increase the effectiveness of rehabilitation.

If the partner network had been stronger and inclusive this might have contributed to the effectiveness of the project.

Efficiency 2

The project is highly effective and efficient as it made maximum use of the advantages of new technologies to cater to a wide global audience for advocacy on torture prevention. The focus on new technologies was a strategic choice.

The accessibility of web based information for target groups related to advocacy and global human rights is high, though the AHRC has overestimated its accessibility3. Of course, the primary target group does not have access to web based information4.

An effective reporting method has been established, which is now widely used. 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. Effective, low cost, efficient.

The focus on police torture (rather than a wide range of HR concerns) is appropriate in terms of effectiveness (‘hammering effect’), efficiency (maximizing output in view of organisational capacity) and organisational profile.

The uniqueness of the AHRC approach is in the combination of the four models and it is precisely these four models that constitute keys to effectiveness and efficiency.

For example the integrated approach at grass root and international level: Effectiveness and efficiency. Partners identify a torture case; they contact the AHRC in Hong Kong; one staff member is handling Urgent Appeals and the website, the support team comes in with technical and tactical advise and the role of local partners again is to translate the publications into the local language and support the victim and his/her family. The consequent poverty approach (choosing partners with a rural support base) brought the project close to its target group: effectiveness. The combined approach to prevention, rehabilitation, legal redress and protection: effectiveness.

The project output includes an enormous amount of publications: the AHRC is highly productive. The way of working on publications is highly efficient: team work with an effective division of labour maximising the use of available human resources. The quality of the publications is generally high; though publications sometimes reflect haste, which affects the impact of the message. Publications are highly cost effective, in particular as it has to be acknowledged that the financial support is exclusively for printing costs (not including writers fees, e.g. the recent study by Kishali Pinto Jayawardena). Books are printed in Sri Lanka so as to reduce printings costs. A question may be raised regarding the income from distribution of publications, also in view of effectiveness.

Project activities are generally highly cost-effective, though some project components are costly (legal professional aid, protection, inter-country logistics). Legal cases may be expensive5 but the importance of these cases may go beyond the case itself. Lalith’s case e.g. is a test case highlighting police torture, systemic issues, Rule of Law deficiencies (court delays, bad prosecutors, lack of proper inquiries), impunity, etc. In other words, the expected wider impact is high.

The partner budgets are in majority used for prevention activities. Treatment and rehabilitation activities are allocated a relatively small share of the budget.

The project set up with a local, regional and international component has of course implications for budget allocations for transport (international flights). This is inherent in the project set up and is justifiable.

3. Contextual analysis

AHRC’s overall contextual analysis is reflected in the project documents and in an impressive number of publications.

The contextual analysis by AHRC is highly relevant for the project. It is based on a huge and detailed documentation of cases of police torture and related legal cases and mass based actions and campaigns, and a thorough knowledge of the international mechanisms available for addressing torture. The distinctive feature of the contextual analysis seems to be that the ‘core issue’ is analysed from different perspectives in varying levels of detail and with varying emphasis.

Case documentation has increased enormously in the course of the project6 and lessons learned from these cases and from the activities undertaken at local level by the partner network and at international level have been incorporated in the contextual analysis contributing to a highly dynamic knowledge resource base. The project uses a highly sophisticated model for knowledge generation.

Publications and action studies substantiating the contextual analysis include a variety of issues7; they are relevant, accurate, well documented, precise and visionary. Information is validated and verified. These studies appear to have constantly informed, sharpened and adjusted the strategies undertaken by the project8.

It is clear that the focus of the project has progressed as the project evolved, and that the contextual analysis is shared by the stakeholders (partners and professionals).

The contextual analysis is consistent over time while reflecting contextual changes in the course of the project period with implications for strategic objectives9.

The AHRC’s context analysis informed the AHRC action model in crucial ways:
1. working from outside,
2. police torture as a systemic issue, thus trying to sidestep the polarization in the Sri Lankan human rights discourse regarding the conflict in the North, with the wider objective to widen the potential support base for the campaign,
3. no emphasis on torture related to the conflict (See below).

Contextual analysis of actors and factors: Project Baseline?

A Contextual Analysis is provided in the 2005-2006 project documents, at the inception of the project. The analysis is “mapping” actors and factors that are potentially enabling or hindering the overall objective of prevention of torture (public opinion, civil society, NPC, SC, AG, Judiciary, HRC).  The analysis is thorough and overall appropriate. Questions may be raised as to the analysis of civil society actors (see below). It is justified to regard this contextual analysis as a (partial) “baseline”.10

It is generally advised to construct a baseline at the inception of a project. However, if a baseline has not been constructed at the outset, it may be re-constructed a posteriori.

While it is fair to regard this analysis as a project baseline as it sets off in 2004, it would be justified to take into account achievements of the implementing organisation in the preparatory phase of the project, prior to 2004, in particular if the objective of assessment is not only to look from a project perspective but rather from a strategy perspective. Achievements prior to 2004 may (or may not) be attributed (credited) to strategies deployed by the AHRC and its partners prior to the project. For example: the AHRC project document says: “In 2000 the CAT Act was little known; by 2004 it was very well known in the country. The AHRC network has been instrumental in creating this change”.11

Of course, from a methodological point of view a more in-depth research should establish indicators for further substantiation of this outcome, and again, reconstruct a baseline, a contextual analysis, and map the actors and factors in the period concerned so as to establish credible linkages between outcome and AHRC intervention strategies.

Another question is whether the project has been able to sufficiently map the changes in the context for the purpose of outcome monitoring, and account for unintended outcome. The answer is: Yes, the project accounted for contextual changes.

Contextual analysis of Civil Society and AHRC’s position

AHRC’s analysis of civil society and its own position within civil society on torture prevention is, in brief12:

  1. Human Rights NGOs and other civil society actors in Sri Lanka have failed to take up torture,
  2. The AHRC network has filled up this gap since late 1990’s.
  3. In the past elite-led NGOs have engaged in treatment and rehabilitation,
  4. There is a need for highlighting torture as an issue of the poor,
  5. Recently civil society has begun to show interest. A mass-based campaign against torture is now within the possibilities. A beginning has already been made.
  6. Partnerships are possible with rural based organisations.


  1. “At the moment some sections of the middle class / affluent classes realise that there is a collapse of the rule of law; they come forward to expose HR abuses and seek a better system of justice. This is also a need felt by grassroots groups”.13

“We are the only ones working on torture with a focus on the rural poor, but a mass-based campaign against torture is possible”. It can be asked whether this approach gives sufficient recognition of the contribution of other actors in the wider human rights scene, and whether this is conducive to an effective partner strategy. There may be a need for an adjustment of the contextual analysis of civil society and a change in the partnership approach.

Tools for contextual analysis

The project has a valuable tool for analysis of torture, redress and coping in the immense case documentation created over time. This database is being used intensely for the purpose of advocacy and it had been the basis for dozens of publications in Sinhala and English, either based on single case studies or on a number of cases. Studies are focusing on advocacy and rights and a wide range of related issues14. A comprehensive study on torture and related issues on the basis of this documentation has not yet been undertaken. See the paragraph below: Need for disaggregated data.

How are the AHRC and its partners managing their valuable but sensitive database? Is privacy respected? Are the data sufficiently protected against attacks15? Preservation of the database? Shadow database? Code of conduct? The evaluators have been given affirmative answers. This may be an area where capacity building for the partner network may be recommended.

When the evaluators asked how many cases the AHRC and its partners have filed on behalf of the victims we were given different answers, and no clarity could be provided on the remaining torture cases pending in different courts (it was reported that around 200 cases are pending of which around half were filed by other actors)16.

The wider analysis of torture prevalence is even a different matter. There are no reliable sources. If one takes into account that the figures on disappearances related to the 1988-1992 violence vary from 30,000 to 60,000 it not surprising that figures on the overall prevalence of torture and on the number of torture survivors are absent altogether.

In conclusion, there is no ‘baseline’ on torture. There is no public health baseline on torture available17, and the closest that we come to a criminal justice baseline on torture is the recent study by Kishali Pinto Jayawardena18.

4. Coverage

Areas and cases addressed

The first premise of the project was to deliberately address police torture as a generic, systemic issue. Prior to this project reporting on torture to the UN was primarily related to the LTTE-State conflict State. The project approached police torture as an institutional issue, addressing the larger underlying issues. This choice also served the wider aim of avoiding the political polarization related to the conflict and seeking openings for advocacy beyond the conflict.19

This had the unintended, at least not explicitly intended effect of not (or to a lesser extent) covering large parts of the country that are affected by the conflict.  None of the partner organisations could affirm that any of the cases of police torture addressed by the conflict came from the conflict areas in the North and North-East. It also had the effect that perhaps Tamils are relatively under-represented in the project caseload. In other words, specific factors and actors contributing to torture related to Tamils may not surface.

The evaluators recommend that, with the new political situation emerging since May 2009, the project explore possibilities for covering the areas not covered so far.

Vulnerable groups

Are certain groups likely to be more targeted than others? Which sections of society are more at risk of torture? Does the project address the most vulnerable sections of society? Is it possible that certain groups are not or less covered because they have specific reasons not to report or not to come forward?

The project in targeting torture as a poverty issue certainly addresses one of the main risk factors. Other risk factors may include ethnicity. The HVT and SETIK have a large group of Tamils among their target groups. Are women invisible? Do women face special kind of torture and is it possible that they are underrepresented? Is there a need for additional efforts to address gender-specific torture and gender-specific reasons not to report?

Clearly there is a need for additional data to answer these questions. One, a disaggregated database. Secondly, special action research into possible group specific determinants and dynamics of torture (poverty, gender and ethnicity).

Need for disaggregated data

There may be a need for specific strategies in view of specific needs of particular vulnerable groups. This was discussed in a meeting of the evaluation team with the Centre for the Rule of Law and the AHRC.

The evaluation team had asked whether disaggregated data are available on the caseload so as to enable the creation of a typology of torture victims based on the AHRC database, that could provide insights in vulnerable groups, types of torture (who, how, where, for what etc). So:

  1. disaggregated data
  2. group-specific conclusions
  3. possible implications for strategies

A provisional list of categories was created during the meeting and the AHRC managed to create a disaggregated database of 253 cases handled between 2004-2009 (see Annex).
The team recommends that, based on its comprehensive database, the AHRC may undertake a deeper study into root causes of torture, redress, coping and healing: determinants/root causes, risk factors, with possible implications for prevention and protection strategies.

Expanding the boundaries of the mandate: children

The evaluators came across a case where a teacher beating a child was taken up by the partner organisation as the partner holds the position that the teacher is acting as a state professional (a representative of the state) and thus it is an act of torture. The position of the partner is that this issue is relevant as “schools are breeding places for violence”. Sri Lanka has two relevant acts in this respect: 1) the Act on Child Protection, and 2) the CAT Act. The discussion on whether or not the CAT Act is applicable to violence by government schoolteachers has far reaching implications for OPCAT.

5. Partners and Partnership

The AHRC has over time developed a network of strategic partners at local, national, regional and international levels, each level with their different roles w.r.t. torture prevention strategies, and contributing as and where the strategies require. The (Asian) regional partners have come in with respect to training and capacity building but they were also of crucial importance when urgent assistance was required on protection of torture victims. International partners have contributed in international advocacy, capacity building, knowledge generation and funding. National partners form the backbone of the project; and at grassroots level the project is partnering with village organisations (e.g. village vigilance committees).

The AHRC had created a “model network of Human Rights activist organisations called People Against Torture (PAT)” 20. The national partner network existed since three years before the project; only since the RCT grant the partners were able to scale up and employ two persons for coordination activities21.

The AHRC’s choice of partners was informed by its contextual analysis. All partners work at grass root level, with the rural poor. No Colombo-based partners were chosen, as these are perceived as “urban elite or middle class”22. The partners are diverse in background, approach, outlook and identity. They have to some extent very different target groups (e.g. SETIK’s target group consists to a large extent of plantation Tamils). The AHRC’s focus was on torture as an endemic factor, not related to the conflict; as a consequence no partners were selected in the North-East.

Linkages between project partners and local organisations are informal. Replication of community level partherships may be one of the directions for future dissemination of project outcome.

Partnership is ‘give and take’. The AHRC has contributed to regional and international partners through training, knowledge generation, support to advocacy and support to their profiles as results based and rights based institutions, etc. The partnership between the AHRC and the national partners may be characterised as ‘holding hands’, with mutual respect and awareness of their complementarity at both sides.

Grassroots partnerships are forged as the prevention activities evolve, also at a personal level. Every case is seen as a learning experiment in solidarity, working together across boundaries of class, caste, geographical boundaries … a victim, a victim’s family, NGO staff, a human rights lawyer, a counsellor, the Hong Kong team …

The Partners in Sri Lanka

At present five partners in Sri Lanka collaborate within the Torture Prevention project: Janasansadaya, Right to Life, Human Rights Citizen’s Committee, Home for Victims of Torture and SETIK. The evaluation team visited all partners.

The team found that the partners all work with enormous dedication, passion and a boundless sense of responsibility on torture prevention and justice for torture victims in Sri Lanka. They all gained tremendous experience. All work on the four interconnected strategic areas prevention, legal redress, rehabilitation and protection – though the emphasis may vary. All have become experts in the field of torture prevention and rehabilitation. All have established victims’ networks and some have created victims’ support groups. All are working under extremely hostile circumstances and there is no partner organisation that has not faced serious retaliation by the state, the police, or individual perpetrators. Their staff surmounts the risks and vulnerabilities inherent in work, 24/7 without insurance and protection.

The partners all maintain high standards of performance23. They all have created their ways to deal with an imminent situation of urgent humanitarian needs and similarly urgent lack of resources.

They all need and deserve support.

RCT’s decision to collaborate with these partners in the context of the torture prevention project is appropriate and is definitely an added value to a grassroots approach to torture prevention in Sri Lanka.

Civil Society and Human Rights: shrinking spaces

Civil society in Sri Lanka has in recent years – in fact coinciding with the start of the project – been impaired by the collapse of the Rule of Law, new emergency and anti-terrorism regulations, the brutalization of the police, the clampdown on NGOs, CID investigations and the resumption of war (2006)24. In view of the ethnic and political divides that have deepened throughout society with the return to war activists have faced huge obstacles in generating wider popular support for human rights concerns. Human rights and peace activists have been systematically attacked in the media as “traitors to the nation”. Government attacks on critical media have led to extensive self-censorship, with the effect that in particular the Sinhalese public is largely kept unaware of the extent of the human rights violations. Numerous human rights defenders have been threatened, attacked and killed. Spaces for human rights action have been reduced25.

Civil society in Sri Lanka is weak and divided along various lines26.

In spite of this there are various networks of human rights organizations engaged in joint fact finding missions, publications, lobby, demonstrations and solidarity statements.27 In public demonstrations raising outrage on torture cases or attacks on human rights defenders – like the recent demonstration against police torture viz. the drowning of a mentally retarded Tamil boy – several organisations may join.28 Some donors engaged in funding Human Rights organisations have created donor-driven networks29.

Movement against torture?

The project had envisaged the strengthening of the umbrella structure for the AHRC.

One of the immediate project objectives was “to strengthen the partner network”30 and expand geographically through sub-offices. The AHRC expected that “a mass-based campaign against torture is now within the possibilities”31.

The “model network of Human Rights activists – People Against Torture (PAT)” had formally ceased to exist at the time of the evaluation32; this may be partly due to internal dynamics within the network and partly to insufficient guidance from the AHRC. The AHRC has been over-optimistic in claiming that it has “successfully created a model network of HR activist organisations”33 and may perhaps have underestimated the obstacles to reach a common ground between the network partners. The partner network building has been and to some extent continues to be a painful process for partners.

The evaluation mission found on one hand that there are profound identity issues within the partner network and between the partners and the AHRC partly explaining incidents of lack of cooperation. The differences pertain to strategic issues as well as personal/ego-issues. “There was gradual run-down with partners being divided”.34 The network has not been able to establish sufficient coherence and synergies. On the other hand all partners expressed that they are prepared to help revive the partner network.35

The present more informal partner network still consists of the same five project partners. Each of the partners has made a considerable contribution to the realisation of the Torture Prevention Project. They still work together on an ad hoc basis, in support of cases of police torture, in campaigns for the defense of human rights defenders36 and for training programmes.

The AHRC approached the issue of police torture as a systemic Rule of Law issue, expecting that this approach would make it possible to sidestep the polarization in the Sri Lankan human rights discourse regarding the conflict in the North, and thus to widen the potential support base for the campaign. Looking back, this wider support base has hardly been realised.

The partners maintain informal working relations with other organisations working on Human Rights in Sri Lanka. The partners cooperate with Platform form Freedom and the peace network.37 However, there is no “national network” with an explicit united agenda on torture prevention. The expected outcome of a “movement against torture” has not emerged38; the expected “mass-based campaign” has not been realized. This may be partly attributed to the increasingly hostile context in which the project operated39. Though acknowledging the contributions of other HR actors, the AHRC and the partners may not have put sufficient efforts in bringing about a more inclusive partnership strategy.40

For an effective revival of the partner network there is a need for a change in approach to partnership building and this includes a change in the way the partner network on torture prevention conceives itself within the Sri Lankan human rights movement and civil society at large. But this is also a prerequisite for maximizing impact for the project itself.

Coordination and communication within the network

Communication amongst partners is bilateral and need-based. There seem to be no planned coordination and communication schemes related to a common project action plan.

The AHRC as a project holder plays a central role in the communication between partners. The AHRC has bilateral communication with each partner. Communication is generally efficient. In some cases lack of responsiveness and “one-way-traffic”41 has been reported. Communication with the AHRC is not always smooth, as is reported by partners and friends42.

Support role by AHRC

The AHRC ‘invests’ in capacity building of the partners. Partners are invited to the AHRC in Hong Kong for internships in the Urgent Appeals program. Partners are given a training on modern communication technologies, efficient methods of data collection, how to prepare Human Rights information, and minimum requirements of an Urgent Appeal. The importance of speedy dissemination of information is emphasized.43

Capacity building provided by AHRC has resulted in:
a. better case documenting, so as to optimize Urgent Appeals and media campaigns,  
c. higher quality of public awareness activities, more recognition, more response,
d. greater capacity in mobilising, more response.

Organisational issues

Local partners have their shared role and responsibilities. Every partner handles case identification, case documentation, legal redress, healing, protection, etc. Organizations are run in an activist way; they practice an informal leadership and management style and the staff participate. The staff undertakes the work in a generalist manner. Decision-making is sometimes with the leader, sometimes more a collective process.

The project staff work round the clock with great commitment. Like in most activist organisations they tend to regard their commitment to the cause as more important than their own needs. There is no institutionalized self-care for staff. Secondary traumatization has been addressed in some of the trainings but not in a systematic way. It is recommended that the partner organisations develop and integrate notions of “care” and “caring organisation” in their practice.

Conclusions on the partner network

Several human rights advocates in Sri Lanka are calling for a united approach and effective alliance building. In their words, in view of the challenges that continue to be posed by the State there is a need for coordination to form a broad platform and a united stand. Vulnerabilities as regards human rights violations need to be faced including addressing the conflict that remains unresolved, i.e. the ethnic conflict.

As one of the human rights activists put it: “If we don’t unite, out voices will not be strong enough in Geneva and Sri Lanka”.

A revival of the partner network on torture prevention is very well possible, however, that is not enough.

There is a need for a drastic change in the way the torture prevention project conceives itself within the Sri Lankan human rights movement and civil society at large. The AHRC’s contextual analysis should more than before recognize the contribution of other actors in the wider human rights scene. The project requires a clear positioning within Sri Lankan civil society and a pro-active and inclusive strategy on partnership and alliance building.

This is a condition for the project to gain maximum impact.

The partners all work with enormous dedication, passion and a boundless sense of responsibility on torture prevention and justice for torture victims in Sri Lanka. All have become experts in the field of torture prevention and rehabilitation. The partners all maintain high standards of performance. They all need and deserve support.

RCT’s decision to collaborate with these partners in the context of the torture prevention project is appropriate and is definitely an added value to a grass roots approach to torture prevention in Sri Lanka.


  1. The project would benefit from a clear positioning within the human rights movement in Sri Lanka and civil society at large and a pro-active and inclusive strategy on partnership and alliance building. This is a condition for the project to gain maximum impact.
  2. The AHRC’s contextual analysis should more than before recognize the contribution of other actors in the wider human rights scene.
  3. A joint strategic planning, resulting in a common plan (with time frame and indicators). This should include an analysis of civil society and a clear action plan on partnership. All partners may be expected to commit themselves to the strategic plan.
  4. The partner network may be revived, possibly in a different form.
  5. This requires a designated coordination role for a person or centre in SL. The coordinator should a.o. have a clear vision on partnership, be able to navigate between the various pitfalls, and be a problem solver.
  6. There is a need for a “change of organisational culture” within the AHRC-and-partner network, in the sense that “language” and messages of communication should be constructive, inclusive, appreciative, and negative communication should be avoided. A mechanism has to be worked out to bring about a “cultural change”.

6. Organisational set-up

The three-tier model has been an appropriate and effective model for the Prevention of Police Torture project (See Ch 4.1.1.).44

Linking local, regional and international capacity is a powerful strategy. The organizational model was successful and can be replicated in other countries.

Analysis of the organisational set-up cannot be separated from the way it was implemented. The representatives of the partner organisations were asked whether in their opinion the organisational set-up for the project was successful.45 Several participants answered, that “the beginning was good. (..) There was gradual run-down with partners being divided”.

Relations between the AHRC and the partners are formally governed by annual contracts. Terms of Reference are not specified in detail46; partner action plans are governed by the overall action plan. Each partner submits a narrative annual report47 and audited annual accounts; these are synthesized into one coherent annual report from the AHRC to RCT.

As project funds are channelled through the AHRC, there is a risk of an unintended imbalance in the relationship; this is a potentially detrimental feature of the partnership that should be given some attention. The contacts between the AHRC and the partners have impacted the dynamics within the partner network.

In spite of the geographic distance the AHRC has managed to give guidance, support and directions. The geographic distance inherently creates a certain imbalance, which may have affected equity.

The network of local organizations includes support groups like religious groups, youth groups, women’s groups, lobby and campaign, education programmes support groups, and the HVT support group (with retired police officers, doctors, counsellors, lawyers); membership of those groups has grown over the years. A key factor in local support base building is inclusiveness, openness and mutual respect. On a local level this works well.

Project management may benefit from a joint strategic planning where roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, with the role of the AHRC as project holder and manager and the local partner organizations as co-implementers. Partners may also benefit from clear action plans. A joint strategic planning could also be beneficial to project cycle management (including monitoring and evaluation).

There will have to remain a sound balance between planning and flexibility. The nature of the work involves a considerable number of risk factors – there will have to be sufficient space for flexibility to respond to these. Also, the diversity among the partner organisations will have to be respected, as diversity is one of the strengths of the network.

7. Gender perspective

The majority of torture cases documented by the police torture project pertains to men: out of 253 cases 14% were related to women.48 In the study by Kishali Pinto Jayawardena the proportion of female victim-petitioners was 21%49. The police torture project covers women as direct victims of torture as well as family members.

Torture of women and men includes gender specific (physical and psychological) torture of women and men50. Figures on torture of women have to be handled with caution. Is torture of women less prevalent as suggested by the figures? Or is part of the torture of women invisible? Are there gender specific reasons for women not to report? Is in particular sexual torture of women invisible?51

Out of 35 cases of torture of women in the AHRC database, 11 cases included sexual violence52. At least in two cases torture of men included sexual violence. The cases analysed by Pinto include two cases of sexual violence. Pinto concludes that “sexual torture emerged as a relatively common form of torture of both women and men”.53 Like police is extorting money from men routinely, it has been hypothesized that police may be requesting sexual favours from women on a routine basis. It is beyond doubt that sexual torture is underreported. Women have a great number of reasons not to report sexual violence.54

The partner organisations pay special attention to women victims of torture55; however a systematic analysis of gender specific torture has not yet been undertaken56. Partners are aware that there is a need for addressing gender specific rehabilitation needs including gender specific counselling needs in case of sexual violence57. At an organisational level gender is not systematically addressed; several professionals (staff, lawyers) mentioned gender specific obstacles in their practice; there is no institutional mechanism to address these.

The project would benefit from integrating a gender perspective both at project cycle level and at the organisational level. 

  1. strengthen a gender perspective in the project cycle (analysis, strategy, activities, monitoring)58; strengthen a gender perspective at the organisational level within the organisations involved,
  2. seek funding for a pilot project on gender and torture in Sri Lanka: analysis, capacity building, training, case study development, strategic planning,
  3. strengthen partnership with women’s organisations (or individuals) that may be able to assist in strengtening a gender perspective in the project.

8. Victims’  Perceptions and Empowerment

The evaluators spoke with many victims/survivors and their family members – about one hundred in six meetings. Their stories were moving, often enraging and sometimes encouraging. The wife of a victim told us that her husband is a broken man and was not able to come and meet us. Many of the persons we spoke to are facing the impact of the torture in every aspect of their lives. We also met one lady who was greatly surprised to hear that there is an Urgent Appeal about her59. Some victims show a remarkable personal development.

There is no doubt that the victims we spoke to, without any exception, have a very high opinion of the Prevention of Police Torture project. There is no doubt, also, that in their perception the AHRC, the partners and RCT have contributed greatly to their empowerment.

“This institution gave me the strength to fight for justice. If I had not met Father Nandana and Basil Fernando I would never have come so far. I am very grateful to AHRC and other organisations. I believe that it is very difficult for ordinary people and those who are discriminated to get justice. The mains reasons are ignorance and poverty. There are hundreds of thousands of cases like mine but they never come up.”

Nandana Kumari Herat:
“Now I am fearless when I go to court. Now I look the judge in the eyes. Now I can eat. Actually everybody going to the High Court has fear but I don’t have fear anymore. Now the police is scared of me. Last week I went to the police station and they said: “Madam, we acknowledge that it has happened…” I was supported to come to this stage by the group of Chitral.”

9. Learning approach

In every project cycle the project has been able to assess lessons learned and incorporate these in the follow up project.60
For example:

  1. Legal remedies and international mechanisms:  Exploring the whole range of legal and international mechanisms (country – lower courts, high court, supreme court – regional, and international – UN mechanisms); and routing out torture as a systemic issue,
  2. Participation and knowledge development: creating opportunities for democratic  participation and knowledge development at varying levels: victims, local partners, regional and international organisations; victims became involved in the advocacy at different levels,

The AHRC and the partners have mentioned various specific examples of lessons learned during the project:

  1. The need to establish an network of specialised Human Rights lawyers
  2. The evident need of including protection as an integral component of the strategy,
  3. Lessons learned within various cases,
  4. The learning method of taking exemplary cases and highlighting systemic and generic issues on the basis of cases.

Learning and capacity building within the project could be strengthened:

  1. there is a need for peer learning, intervision and support. Could be organised across partners.
  2. Expanding the database with disaggregated data and draw conclusions (see above) 61

Learning and sharing with other organisations elsewhere could be strengthened:

  1. E.g., by writing a publication / manual based on the model of the Police Torture Prevention project, to enable sharing with other groups.

Staff mentioned that they have learned during the project (this was communicated to the evaluators):

  1. They mentioned that they learned about: Law, Human Rights, Torture; Counselling techniques; Listening to and connecting with the victims; The process of healing with the survivors;
  2. They mentioned that they learned from: seeing victims getting empowered and living without fear
  3. They mentioned that they learned to be courageous; to fight for justice, and to work as a collective, without a hierarchical system, and that they can collectively work towards change.

In the Partner workshop representatives mentioned that they learned:

  1. Healing trauma; and that communication between partners is most important in a network62.

10. Sustainability, replicability

The project model could be replicated for other organisations working on torture in countries with a similar context. 

  1. Financial sustainability: The project will remain dependent on outside funding.
  2. Institutional sustainability:
    1. The project has not resulted in a wider institutional agenda for the prevention of torture.
    2. Protection is the responsibility of the state, but in the absence of the state taking responsibility, civil society organisations will continue to engage in ‘R2P’, ‘Right to Protect’.
  3. Social / political sustainability: the support base for a Prevention of Police Torture project has definitely increased through the project, though the expected “mass campaign against torture” has not materialized.

The sustainability of the prevention work is guaranteed in the sense that the project holders have a great sense of commitment to torture prevention.63 In the follow-up phase sustainability may be given more emphasis.

11. Support by RCT

RCT has provided extensive support to the conceptualisation of the project64 including: a project formulation workshop in October 2003; a training mission on treatment for victims with an RCT medical consultant organised by partner FRC (Family Rehabilitation Centre); a consultancy to “compile, analyse and document the preventive model and experiences”65; a mission to assist in the formulation of the project document for the pilot phase, September 2004; and the funding for the pilot project. During the project (2004 – 2005, 2005 – 2009) RCT provided the funding for the activities, several capacity building missions – highly appreciated by partners (Testimonial therapy, Care for Care givers, Trauma Counselling66) and it undertook regular high-profile monitoring & review missions.

RCT contributes to the AHRC in many ways, including in terms of knowledge development, providing a platform for critical exchange and dialogue on torture prevention and rehabilitation, providing a range of invaluable contacts and partnerships, strategy development and funding – through the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Danida.

The range, intensity, consistency, amount and quality of the technical and financial67contributions provided by RCT is remarkable and commendable. RCT’s support involves much more than what is usually provided by funding agencies. RCT is not a merely donor. RCT is a strategic partner for the AHRC. This should be acknowledged as such by the AHRC.68

Recommendation: RCT’s contribution to partners’ capacity building may focus on:
1. Results Based Management (incl. logframe, results and outcome assessment of human rights interventions),
2. Partnership building,
3. Counselling,
4. Documenting and publishing best practices69.

1 The project has provided new knowledge as to which models or approaches offer the best access, quality and possibilities for sustainability for the work against torture and organised violence, in particular in an increasingly hostile context. In that sense the project has contributed to RCT’s policy targets for 2015. See: The RCT policy targets of particular relevance for the project evaluation, mentioned in ToR, appendix. “By the year 2015, based on an improved understanding of the practice of torture and organised violence, the crucial elements for effective organisation of community mobilisation for rehabilitation and prevention in relation to torture and organised violence have been identified, and models from at least 2 different parts of the world have been tested. By the year 2015, RCT is able to provide new knowledge as to which models or approaches offer the best access, quality and possibilities for sustainability for the work against torture and organised violence in different political and socio-economic environments”.

2 Efficiency – the ratio of effect to the total inputs (money, resources, time etc). If efficiency were to be assessed in financial terms, this would require a highly detailed level of financial data with accounts disaggregated to activity at the level of AHRC and the partners. That level of detail is not available in project accounts and not needed in this kind of evaluation.

3 AHRC has mentioned in publications that the Urgent Appeals reach 200,000 people; in the evaluation briefing meeting in Hong Kong in November 2009 the figure given was 6,300.

4 There is a question as to how many other organisations and websites have links to AHRC. It may be recommended to expand external links to the AHRC website from websites of relevant stakeholders.

5 In exceptional cases lawyers fees may amount to 150,000 Rs (nearly 1000 Euro) for an appearance, like in the case of Lalith Rajapakse

6 The current documentation includes over 253 detailed cases.

7 Studies include a variety of issues such as an analysis of the main conflicts governing the Sri Lankan political scene and the implications thereof for the legal system, the Rule of Law in Sri Lanka, prevalence and determinants of torture, a detailed analysis of case reports, the criminal-police nexus, police reform initiatives, analysis of attacks on the judiciary, contempt of court, delays in adjudication, the dysfunctionality of the criminal justice system, threats on human rights defenders, absence of witness protection, analysis of state inaction in response to recommendations of UN agencies, analysis of obstacles in processes and strategies on prevention of torture in Sri Lanka.

8 There is sometimes space for improvement in terms of final editing, lay out, font etc; (some publications are a compilation of articles where the relation between the various articles and the title is not clear for the reader; some publications read more like pamphlets). Sometimes the distinction between conclusions that are substantiated by research data and statements about expected or hoped-for outcome is not sufficiently clear.

9 In the course of the project the emphasis of the contextual analysis was adjusted in response to the contextual changes; the latter documents emphasize more than before the endemic, systemic nature of torture in Sri Lanka. See Project document 2005-2006. Chitral Perera: “When the project started there was an assumption that we can really abolish torture, that is why the overall objective is called prevention of torture”.

10 The evaluators have produced a systematic baseline based on this analysis, for the purpose of this evaluation. 
The first mission report by RCT after the start of the pilot project serves as a baseline for the project – it describes the various project components, considerations and dilemmas in much detail. See RCT: Mission Report to Sri Lanka, November 2004.

11 Another example: Public opinion: in 2003-2004 a “tremendous improvement in the expression of public opinion against torture” is reported in the 2004 project document. AHRC says: “the AHRC network has played an instrumental role in creating this improvement”.

12AHRC Prevention of Police Torture in Sri Lanka, Project Document Project Phase 2005-2006, December 2004, p 13-18.

13 Idem, p 18

14 see f.e. the list of studies mentioned in the project document, December 2004

15 This is far from an imaginary situation, in view of the many attacks that have actually taken place in recent time, for example on the office of Human Rights lawyer Weeliamuna, see (publication)

16 See footnote in Ch 5, Results

17 RCT has initiated public health studies based on WHO methodology (quantitative baselines) in Guatemala, Honduras and in Albanian prisons. Assessments of the prevalence of torture in Sri Lanka are difficult to make. The existing data arise from analysis of individual cases and compilation. One may consider projecting prevalence from available case based sources.

18 Kishali Pinto 2009.

19 See above, under contextual analysis

20 “AHRC’s best experience is in Sri Lanka, where it has successfully created a model network of HR activist organisations, called People Against Torture (PAT). Established in 2002, the network comprises 15 grassroots level organisations (together with their sub-offices) working independently in different parts of the island. These groups meet once a month to share their experiences, support each other and decide on future action. They are also in constant communication with AHRC.” S.Puvimanasinghe 2006, p. 18

21 Project Document 2005 Annex 3 p 27. Also: RCT mission report November 2004 p 3. The description of the partner network in this mission report (though not an AHRC document) may be seen as a “baseline” for the partner activities.

22 S. Puvimanasinghe 2006 p 17.

23 It may be just to mention here that the evaluation team has not come across any indication of misappropriation of funds or violation of humanitarian codes of conduct.

24 International Crisis Group 2007 p 15: “the environment for humanitarian organisations and NGOs has become much more difficult”.

25 Cynthia Veliko, UN HR Advisor: “The last 1-1,5 years have been the most difficult to find spaces to work on Human Rights”. Meeting, November 2009

26 Sinhala-Tamil, Buddhist-Christian-Muslim-secular, Colombo-outside, access to INGO funding-no funding, professional-non-professional, women’s perspective, political background, political affiliation, etc. Some human rights activists mentioned that negative perceptions, ego-issues, sectarianism and competitiveness between organizations have contributed to lack of concerted action.

27 Interview with human rights and peace activists, November 2009. These networks are mostly Colombo based. One of them is a network of 8 Human Rights organisations: CPA, Home for HR, LST, Inform, Rights Now, Right to Life, Civil Monitoring Commission, IMADR. They work in principle with a division of labour or at least acknowledgement of areas of strength. Very broadly: CPA – Policy issues; LST – Documentation; Inform – Fact finding; IMADR – Facilitating UN advocacy; Home for Human Rights – Handling legal cases; Right to Life – Awareness, mobilising at district level, victim assistance; Rights Now – Leadership Development, Lawyers training, Democracy, Rule of Law; Civil Monitoring Commission – Political leadership, disappearances, national campaigning. They work as a “United Forum”. See joint reports at website of Centre for Policy Alternatives There are also ad hoc and issue based networks. See also publications by Seeds, Shade, Surya, Centre for Human Rights and Development, LST, UTHR (University Teachers for Human Rights).

28 Civil Monitoring Commission, Mothers and Daughters of Sri Lanka, Right to Life, Platform for Freedom, CPA. Apart from Right to Life there was no participation from other partners of the AHRC project. See also the statement by Women’s organizations and Organisation of Professional Associations of Sri Lanka in response to the attack on the house of senior lawyer J.C.Weliamuna, in: AHRC: Corruption and abuse of Human Rights: Threats and Attacks on a Human Rights Defender. AHRC, 2008, p 33-42.

29 Cynthia Veliko, UN HR Advisor: “I have never seen a donor community that has worked so intensely on Human Rights”.  Donors have their donor driven HR networks: EU is creating a (donor-driven) network of HR organisations funded by EU. UN has its HR partner network. These networks engage in information sharing, capacity building, joint advocacy, and may be utilized by donors to ‘get their messages across’ and monitor their policies.

30 See Project document Nov 2004, Project doc Nov 2005 p 16 et passim: “to strengthen a comprehensive network of local organisations .. against torture”.

31 Project Document Project December 2004, p 13-18, quoted before (par. on contextual analysis); Project doc Nov 2005 p 7: a “mass-based campaign is now within the possibilities”.

32 “In February 2008, at a meeting held at Kerela, India, attended by Chithral, Fr. Nandana, Philip and Brito from Right to Life, Sanjeewa and myself, it was jointly agreed to abolish PAT as for long time it has not formally functioned. Everyone also agreed that PAT had no real formal function. Therefore it was held it was pointless to appoint any person formally as a coordinator. Thereafter no coordinator was appointed. It was agreed by everyone that whenever they wished to get together, any member organization can call for join meeting. There should be no formalities and any organization which feels that some activities can be done together can call for a meeting. In fact, PAT as a formal structure never existed. It was just a name created at the start to express the common purpose of all the 5 organizations. Following principles were always firmly agreed upon:
1. each organization is separate and that no organization has any say over the workings of the other organizations. All internal decisions of each organization is the responsibility of each organization. 
2. The coordinator of this programmer is the Asian Human Rights Commission. The executive director of AHRC will be the formal coordinator of the total programmer and will also coordinate all functions with the RCT. Thus the real coordinating center of the organizations is the AHRC and the coordinator is myself. 
I have kept in contact with each organization on an almost daily basis. All the major decisions of each organization are taken in consultation with me. All the organizations contact me whenever there is any issue. Either on the work in general or organizational problem”. (Letter from B. Fernando 29 November 2009)

33 See footnote in previous paragraph: “AHRC’s best experience is in Sri Lanka, where it has successfully created a model network of HR activist organisations, called People Against Torture (PAT). Established in 2002, the network comprises 15 grassroots level organisations…” S.Puvimanasinghe 2006, p. 18. The evaluators have not met all 15 partner organisations mentioned in the AHRC documents.

34 Outcome of the questionnaire for Participants to the Partner Workshop, Prevention of Torture Project, 11.9.09

35 Responses to questionnaire to participants of the partner workshop: .. out of … participants states that he/she sees a possibility to revive the network.

36 For example on the cases of Gerald, Lalith, Rita and the attack on Weliamuna all partner all partners campaigned together.

37 Like Home for Human Rights, Center for Human Rights and Development, Lawyers for Human Rights and Development (LHRD), Law and Society Trust (LST). These organisations are regarded as informal partners.

38 In the evaluation meeting in Hong Kong, 1 November 2009, AHRC clarified that for AHRC a “movement” is understood as a “dialogue”.

39 See previous paragraph

40 See the par. on contextual analysis, above; see also AHRC Prevention of Police Torture in Sri Lanka, Project Document December 2004, p 18.

41 “Partners have been instructed..” Project doc 2006 p 5

42 As one of the friends put it: “Basil is a unique personality in Sri Lanka. His strengths are his passion, his honesty – he does not tolerate any hypocrisy – and his vision. He is also unique in that Sri Lankan culture is generally less abrasive”. The personality of the executive director of AHRC is held in high esteem by all partners and friends in the network.

43 See S.Puvimanasinghe 2006

44 See also Annex: AHRC working model. See also the model in: S.Puvimanasinghe 2006

45 Outcome of the Questionnaire for Workshop Participants, Police Torture Project, 11 November, 2009

46 The contracts refer to the agreement with RCT and mention the “items for (..) reimbursement of costs’: Treatment and Rehabilitation, Lobby, Media, Meetings, Street movements, Research and publications”.

47 Reporting obligations are not mentioned as a requirement in the contract

48 With many thanks to Lewis Davis who compiled a detailed database of 253 cases of police torture handled by AHRC between 2004 and 2009.

49 Kishali Pinto-Jayawardene 2008, p 15; 14 out of 66 cases

50 Gender specific violence against men includes sexual violence against men or threatening a man that his wife will be assaulted. E.g. the police threatened Sugath that they would rape his wife, assaulted the daughter. Gender specific torture of women may include forced abortion.

51 On gender and torture see the report of UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak, addressing Gender and Torture. See Report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, (A/HRC/7/3, 15 January 2008)

52 Several of these cases were discussed in more detail during the evaluation mission. 
NH: the government claimed that they filed action against the perpetrators. However, two years after the incident, the files were still with the AG’s Department. AHRC progress rep May 2004 p.1. 
The case of P. is an example of police using power to enforce sexual favours. See: Supreme Court (F.R.) Application no 298/2005, decided on 25.01.2008. P. makes a living selling liquor (UML). She is compelled to bribe the police and surrender bottles of liquor to the police. Police threatens to arrest P. unless she pays with sexual favours and assaults her. Janasansadaya took up the case, published a booklet about her including all her letters to IGP, AG, HRC. P. won her case. She has been very courageous. She still has a problem making a living for her family.
NK: Janasansadaya: The sexual violence is specifically mentioned in the N.K. judgement by the S.C.

53 see Kishali Pinto 2008 p 15: the cases of  (V.A.) and (Y.V.). E.g. see (Y.V.) v. Mr. Wijesekara and others, SC (FR) App. No. 186/2001, SCM 23.08.2002. The Supreme Court has been very outspoken on these cases: “Such methods can only be described as barbaric, savage and inhuman”.

54 see my report on Kutum

55 As was mentioned by participants in the partner workshop and is clear from publications, e.g, Women speak out: interviews with four women, in: B. Fernando, S. Puvimasinghe, 2005, p 28-52

56 In the UNHR meeting one of the staff mentioned missing info on torture and SGBV.

57 As was mentioned during the partner workshop. Counselling on sexual torture has been taken up in the training by Dr. Mitra.

58 including gender disaggregated data collection, gender disaggregated case documentation, gender analysis of torture prevalence, analysis of gender specific torture, analysis of gender specific traumatization and rehabilitation needs; specified for vulnerable groups (girl children, minorities, FHH) etc; including implications for staff capacity building, partnership etc.

59 Ranjini Rupika

60 The 2005-2006 project document mentions that a review of the pilot phase (2004) has been undertaken, that “mere repetition is irrelevant” and that a number of changes in the intervention strategies are needed; the project document 2006-2008 has incorporated lessons learned. Project document 2006-2008 annex 4

61 Kishali Pinto-Jayawardene: Sri Lanka, The right not to be tortured, A critical Analysis of the Judicial Response, Colombo, LST, 2008, p.10 f.f.: She ‘draws lessons’ from the analysis of the database: the majority of  cases analysed were: cases involving allegations under penal code; sinhala petitioners; close to Colombo; men; outcome was low compensation; the most severe forms of torture are reserved for the poorest and most marginalized segments of society (p.17); professionals tend to be subjected to lesser, while nonetheless abhorrent, forms of violence, but tend to receive higher level of compensation (18). She highlights the link to ethnicity: compensation awarded to Sinhala is higher than to Tamils; compensation tends to be linked to who is the justice. She points to patterns of torture; issues of protection; classification issues (p 35).

62 Outcome of the questionnaire for participants of the partner workshop, 11 November, 2009.

63 Basil Fernando: “We will continue this project anyway, with or without financial support”.

64 RCT Mission Report November 2004, Terms of Reference, p. 1-2

65 It is mentioned that “in accordance with the project objectives AHRC and RCT will co-write on articles / papers on methodological development and lessons learned from the preventive strategies…(..) The expected outcome will be two well-researched articles ready to be published in relevant magazines. A second objective will be to formulate a research proposal for implementation in 2005”.

66 Partners communicated that the training missions organised by RCT have been very successful.

67 The funding covers part of the orgnisational expenditures for the project.

68 AHRC refers to RCT as a donor organisation.

69 The study by AHRC/RCT written by Shyamali (2006) may have been undertaken with that purpose; what is needed is an update by someone with an independent outsiders’ perspective.