Re: the arrest, torture and killing of another Sri Lankan citizen on the basis of mistaken identity: the case of Lelwala Gamage Nandiraja, killed by members of the Weliweriya and Pitigala Police

The Asian Human Rights Commission is writing this letter to you, since it is no longer possible to find any responsible agency within the Sri Lankan law enforcement system to which a complaint of this sort can be made, with the expectation that the required action might be taken. The National Police Commission, a constitutional body, is without Commissioners; the Inspector General of Police (IGP) doesn’t care very much about allegations of torture or extra-judicial killings, and we do not know whether the Ministry of Defence has any role in these matters. After having repeatedly tried to bring similar matters to such authorities, and having seen that nothing happens as a result, we have had to take this step to bring this matter to your attention. We sincerely hope that, as the head of state, you will take appropriate action before more persons become the victims of tragic deaths due to the careless behaviour of law enforcement officers. We hope that you will take appropriate action concerning this matter. We regret to state that the mere reference of this matter to the IGP is very unlikely to produce any responsible reaction.

The torture of Gerald Perera on mistaken identity, followed by his killing to prevent him from giving evidence against the police, is well known. However, the intervention of the Supreme Court in that case, along with the huge publicity surrounding it, has not in any way contributed to the lessening of the high level of negligence displayed by Sri Lankan police officers when arresting people, or in altering their ingrained habit of torturing persons after arrest. The arrest, torture and the extra-judicial killing of 53 year old Lelwala Gamage Nandiraja on May 29, 2005, by officers from Stations, manifests the repetition of this abhorrent police behaviour.

The police suspected a 40 year old person named Lalewela Nandiraja of theft.  However, they arrested a 53 year old man with a similar name and beat him up severely, both at the time of arrest and subsequently.  53 year old Nandiraja, who was a native physician, later succumbed to the injuries he had sustained during the beatings. There has been no proper investigation into the matter and none of the officers have been arrested for having tortured and murdered the victim.  The details of the incident are as follows:

According to Ms. K. K. Weerawathie Gamage, the victim’s sister, two police officers wearing Weliweriya police uniforms and four others in civilian clothes, carrying guns and clubs, arrived at her house on the night of May 29, 2005. They knocked on the door and were looking for Nandiraja. When asked, they said they had come to arrest him.

When told that Nandiraja was inside the room sleeping, they immediately entered the room and started severely beating him. He was beaten all over his body. When Ms Gamage pleaded with the police not to hurt her brother, they ignored her. Likewise, they did not respond when asked where they were taking Nandiraja or what the charges against him were. Nandiraja was dragged naked from the house and taken away by the police towards a Toyota Hiace 65-1999 vehicle. It was later discovered that the victim was suspected of stealing goods from a furniture shop.

On May 30, 2005 at 8.30 a.m., Nandiraja was reportedly rushed to Gampaha District Government Hospital. However, it is believed that the victim may have already been dead at that time.

I sincerely hope that you will take appropriate action to inquire into this matter and to ensure that the perpetrators are prosecuted. This is vital if we are to see an end to Sri Lankan citizens becoming the victims of similar irresponsible arrests, torture and death.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Basil Fernando
Executive Director

Document Type : Open Letter
Document ID : AHRC-OL-003-2006
Countries : Sri Lanka,