SRI LANKA: AHRC calls on the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission to intervene in the death of a suspect in police custody!

Justice Priyantha R. P. Perera

Chairman, Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka

No 165 Kynsey Road,


Colombo 08

Sri Lanka


FAX; +94 11 2 694924 / +94 112 696470/ +94 112 689558

Dear Justice Priyantha Perera,

SRI LANKA: A request to the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission to immediately call for a report from the Inspector General of Police and to take appropriate action regarding the custodial death of the suspect in the quadruple murder in Nainamadama, Wennapuwa

I am writing to you on behalf of the ARHC to request the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka to immediately call for a report from the Inspector General of Police and to take appropriate action regarding the custodial death of the suspect in the quadruple murder in Nainamadama, Wennapuwa. It is an essential part of the mandate of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission to stop extra judicial killings and for that purpose to conduct inquiries into suspicious deaths in police custody. We have set out below the details that led to the alleged suicide by a suspect by jumping into the Ma-Oya whilst he was being held in custody of three CID Officers. Claims of such incidents suicides have become quite common in Sri Lanka where suspects have been found dead following their arrests.

The details of the case are as follows;

The discovery of the bodies of the four members of the same family in Wennapuwa on the 1st of January this year is one of the gravest crimes reported in the recent times. The victims of these horrific murders were a dental surgeon attached to the Lunuwila Hospital, her husband who was a businessman, their 13 year old son, and 15 year old daughter.

Police spokesman SSP Ajith Rohana stated to the media that an individual who had served as a watcher has been arrested in connection with these murders and that during investigations he has confessed to committing the murders with the help of his allegedly, illicit lover. He further stated that while three CID officers were escorting the suspect to the place in order to recover the murder weapon – an axe he used to commit the murders – the suspect committed suicide by jumping into the Ma-Oya.

It is strange that three CID officers were unable to restrain the suspect who was in their custody from jumping into the river and further still that they have not been able to successfully rescue the suspect even after him plunging into the into the river. It was an obligation on the part of the three CID officers to take all the precautions necessary to prevent the suspect from escaping or making an attempt to commit suicide while he was in their custody. It is also the usual custom to handcuff an arrested suspect when he is taken out of the police station for whatever the purpose may be.

Given many previous examples of suspects of serious crimes being killed while in custody it is hard to believe the version of the story given by the three CID officers regarding the death of the suspect in question. It is the obligation of the Inspector General of Police and other senior police officers in the area to conduct an inquiry into the death of this suspect. So far, there has been no report of any such inquiry. The Police Spokesman did not inform the public of any such inquiry that is to take place into the circumstances of this custodial death.

The practice of reporting such deaths of suspects in custody, particularly in cases where the crimes are of extremely serious nature has now become a frequent practice.

With the death of such suspects all inquiries into the death are usually brought to an end and the public is therefore denied of the opportunity to learn about the actual circumstances of such grave crimes. The judiciary at the same time is denied of their role of inquiring into such murders and from taking judicial actions regarding these matters.

Like all such serious crimes the killing of this Dental Surgeon and her family created a great shock to the residents in the area. The reporting of these four deaths would have naturally also caused similar concerns throughout the country.

It is the duty of the police particularly when conducting inquiries into such serious crimes, to take all precautions to ensure a proper inquiry is conducted and to place all the evidence that is available to them before the Courts. In this case the Police Spokesman did not reveal any other evidence pointing to this particular suspect being the culprit of these crimes, except his own alleged confession, made during the interrogations.

Under these circumstances, there are credible grounds to suspect that this alleged suspect may have been killed while in custody and thereafter thrown into the Ma-Oya, so as to bring the entire matter to an end.

Resorting to extra judicial killings in dealing with serious crimes is partly a result of the failure of the judicial processes to act speedily in the conduct of trials into crimes. Under these circumstances a way of appeasing the public is to create an impression of “justice as being done” by disposing of suspects through extra judicial means.


Such practices themselves are an indication of the breakdown of the legal system and also the loss of faith in the judicial process.


As this is a matter of serious concern, we have in a separate letter urged the Inspector General of Police to conduct an inquiry into the circumstances of the death of this suspect in the quadruple murder in Wennapuwa and in any event, to take action against the three CID officers for the failure to protect the suspect in their custody.


• In light of the above we therefore earnestly urge you and the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission;

• to call for a report from the Inspector General of Police relating to this custodial death; and

• to monitor through your officers, the inquiries that may be taking place regarding the alleged quadruple murder to ensure that the remaining suspects are prosecuted according to the law and that they are provided protection while in police custody.


Thanking you,

Yours Sincerely,

Bijo Francis

Executive Director

Document Type : Open Letter
Document ID : AHRC-OLT-001-2014
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Democracy, Institutional reform, Military, Right to life, Torture,