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SRI LANKA: Officers of the Karandeniya police torture and threaten to sodomize businessman, insulting him about his ‘low’ caste origin

June 10, 2013
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Several police officers from the Karandeniya police illegally arrested Chandila Padmakumara Gurusinghe of Kiripedda, Babuwo Kanda, Karandeniya in Galle District, apparently on the instigation of a cinnamon trader. He was arrested without being informed of the reason for his arrest and he learned it only after he was brought to the police station by listening to the conversation of the police officers who tortured him. He identified the officers who were responsible for his ordeal as Police Constable Silva (PC 53241), Sub Inspector (SI) Prasanna Mendis (who is Officer-in-Charge of the Crime Branch) and Inspector of Police (IP) Lal Chandrasiri, among others.

After taking him into police custody on7 May 2013 at 3 pm, he was handcuffed to a bed in a cell, before being taken out and slapped by SI Mendis twice at around 7:30 pm. SI Mendis asked him about a cinnamon trader. Later, he was put back in the cell until the next morning. On 8 May, the Office in Charge (OIC) of the Karandeniya Police Station, Inspector Chandrasiri, accused Chandila of committing robberies, stealing a gold chain and trading in illegal weapons. Chandila flatly denied all the accusations. Then the OIC played a recording, asking Chandila to listen, but the recording was not clear at all. The OIC then stated that he hated people from ‘Hakuru’ caste. (‘Mata Hakurangwa pennanna be.’) This was a derogatory reference to Wahumpura caste.

The SI Mendis threatened that he would file a fabricated charge for the illegal possession of a bomb against Chandila. He was repeatedly told to ‘tell the truth’. Chandila asserted his innocence.

While these things were happening, a cinnamon trader known to Chandila named Nihal Shantha was leisurely walking about the police station. Later, Chandila was brought to the kitchen of the police station and spoken to in obscene language by the police officers. Again they called him ‘Hakura’. He was ordered to remove his clothes.

The officers first bound Chandila's hands behind his back. Then they threw another rope over a ceiling beam, which they attached to the rope binding Chandila's hands. He was made to stand on a chair and the officers took up the slack on the rope. When they were ready, PC 53241 kicked the chair out from under Chandila, leaving him hanging by his wrists.

Chandila was in enormous pain and felt as if his shoulders and wrists were broken. Then SI Mendis asked him, "How are you feeling now, are you ready to tell the truth now?" With considerable courage, Chandila replied that he had nothing to say and reiterated that he had not committed any crime. SI Mendis then told other two officers that he had still had not sweated enough and to leave him in the same position for some more time.

After some time, Chandila does not know how long, he started sweating all over his body. However, when PC 53241 again asked him to tell the truth, Chandila told the PC that he had nothing to say.

Then Chandila felt that he was losing consciousness and his vision was fading.

The officers lowered him to the ground. Again, PC 53241 asked him if he was ready to reveal the truth. When Chandila again told him that he did not know anything and had not committed any crime the officers again hauled him up by the rope. Then PC 53241 started to beat Chandila's feet with a broomstick and asked him if he was at least ready to tell a lie. PC 53241 also beat Chandila's genitals, asking him if he was married or not.

PC 53241 then brought a plastic bag of chili powder and asked Chandila if he knew what he was going to do with it.

OIC Chandrasiri entered the kitchen and asked Chandila whether he knew a person called Susantha from Ambalangoda. When Chandila said that he did, the OIC ordered the other officers to release him. The officers did so and made him sit on the ground, propped up against the wall, as he could not support himself. He was told that fabricated charges would be laid against him.

At 5 pm on 8 May, the officers brought Chandila by jeep to the private dispensary of a doctor at Polwatte in Ambalangoda. The name of the doctor was Prasanna Wijesinghe. At the dispensary, SI Mendis and PC 53241 went inside. Chandila was left in the car with another officer.

Later, Chandila was brought inside. The doctor spoke to Chandila in his office.

The doctor asked Chandila if he was from Karandeniya, to which he replied that he was. Then the doctor told him that he was the one who rescued the chief of his people and said that, "Your people do not have any gratitude at all". Chandila understood that for some unknown reason the doctor was angry and wanted to discriminate against the people coming from Karandeniya. Chandila further realised that the doctor and the police officers all had an appalling attitude towards the people of his caste, which is considered to be low down on the hierarchical caste order and who are the predominant majority in the Karandeniya area. Chandila felt that he was being treated in a humiliating manner.

Then the doctor simply filled in the form that was presented to him by the police officers. He did not question or examine Chandila for his medical condition despite the fact that he was in severe pain after being subjected to inhuman torture. Chandila felt that the doctor did not carry out his duty as a professional but instead connived with the police officers to deny him of his rights.

On 10 May he was taken to the Magistrate of Elpitiya in his private chambers (court was not in session). The Magistrate was told about Chandila’s torture but remanded him until 16 May.

In Remand Prison, Chandila was examined by a doctor, who recorded his injuries, and he was sent to Karapitiya Teaching Hospital, where a Judicial Medical Officer examined and photographed his injuries. Because of his condition, the doctor insisted that he needed to be hospitalized.

Chandila was later taken back to remand prison and released on bail on the 16th. He is due in court on the 23rd of June.

In this treatment of Chandila, there are the following violations of constitutional rights and also the commission of crimes under the CAT Act No. 22 of 1994:

• Suspending Chandila in the air by a rope tied around his wrists is a brutal form of torture and has resulted in serious injuries, and could have caused his death.
• Threatening to sodomize him and also to use chili powder, showing him the chili powder bag, also amounts to torture.
• Slapping him, beating him and threatening to file serious charges relating to possession of a bomb against him also amount to serious torture.
• Added to this, abusing a person by calling them a Hakura, thus referring in a derogatory manner to his caste, also amounts to cruel and inhuman treatment, and is clearly within the meaning of torture under the CAT Act No. 22 of 1994. In the United States, using the word ‘n*gger’ against an African American is considered a criminal offence and amounts to causing of mental pain, which amounts to cruel and inhuman treatment. Both the Office-in-Charge of the police station and Dr. Prasanna Wijesinghe engaged in this despicable degradation of a human being.

The Asian Human Rights Commission is of the view that the issue of discrimination on the basis of caste, which is by now recognized by the United Nations as a serious violation of human rights, needs to be seriously canvassed against in Sri Lanka. The people of Karandeniya have often been subjected to extreme forms of humiliation and even death by way of extrajudicial killings due to their belonging to the Wahumpura caste. A considerable number of persons who were killed in the two JVP insurrections were also from this caste. The whole issue of discrimination against castes, and particularly the worst forms of discrimination meted out to Wahumpura and Baddgama (Padu) castes, needs special attention by everyone who is concerned with the equality of all persons.

The alleged behavior of Dr. Prasanna Wijesinghe in not treating this serious injured patient, and him insulting the injured man on the basis of his caste origin, needs to be condemned. Earlier, a doctor who failed to properly examine a torture victim was suspended by the Medical Council for a period of two years. Chandila’s allegations about the treatment her received from this doctor should also be brought to the attention of the Medical Council.

For further details, please see the case in full below.

Chandila Padmakumara Gurusinghe (35), of Kiripedda, Babuwo Kanda, Karandeniya in Galle District, is married and the father of two children. He is a businessman by profession.

At 3 pm on 7 May 2013, Chandila was at C G Iron Works at Karandeniya when he noticed several police officers arriving by police jeep. He later identified them as Police Constable Silva (PC 53241) and Sub Inspector (SI) Prasanna Mendis (who is Officer-in-Charge of the Crime Branch). They were all wearing civilian clothing.

PC 53241 told him that they needed his services to measure a roof and asked him to get into the jeep, which was driven at the time by SI Mendis. While they were traveling, the two officers started talking and one said, "As police officers, there is nothing we cannot do." Apparently in order to prove this, they stopped the police jeep at the 4th Mile Post in the middle of the road.

Then Chandila observed that a van was following their jeep and it stopped nearby. SI Mendis told the people in the van that they would meet in the evening for a drink, by which Chandila understood that they intended to drink alcohol. He noticed that there were four persons inside that van.

Chandila was then brought to the Karandeniya Police Station, where he expected to be given his work. However, instead of allowing him to do the business he was supposedly brought to the police station for, the officers started making rude comments. He realised that he had been illegally arrested. Chandila noticed that his elder brother Chandana Pradeep Gurusinghe and the Member of the Pradesheeya Saba (Local Government Authority of the area) were also there.

Chandila was brought to a room in the building next to the main compound of the police station, and there he was handcuffed to a bed.

Chandila asked SI Mendis to allow him to talk to his brother, Chandana, but this was refused and the door of the room was shut.

At 7.30 pm, SI Mendis came to Chandila and, without any reason, slapped him twice. He then questioned Chandila about a cinnamon trader. But when Chandila asked the SI to clarify his question, the officer said nothing. Then he bought Chandila to a cell inside the police station where Chandila remained until the following morning.

In the morning (May 8) an officer bought him to Inspector of Police (IP) Lal Chandrasiri (Officer-in-Charge of the Karandeniya Police Station). The OIC accused Chandila of committing robberies, stealing a gold chain and trading in illegal weapons. When Chandila denied these accusations the OIC allowed him to listen to an audio conversation with a mobile phone. However, the volume was faint and Chandila was not able to hear properly. Then the OIC openly stated that he hated people belonging to 'Hakuru Caste'. (‘Mata Hakurangwa pennanna be.’) This was a derogatory reference to Wahumpura caste.

At that same time SI Mendis and PC 53241 arrived. The OIC questioned PC 53241 as to whether they could finish Chandila by filing a fabricated charge of the illegal possession of a bomb. PC 53241 said that they should try another method first as he was sure that Chandila would reveal everything they wanted. Chandila was returned to the cell and told that he was to be given one hour to think about the matter and then "tell the truth". However, before the officers left, Chandila told them that he knew nothing of what they were talking about.

After some time, Chandila observed that Nihal Shantha, a cinnamon trader working in the same area, had arrived at the police station. Chandila noticed that Nihal behaved in an easy manner inside the police station, as if it was a familiar place to him. Nihal entered a room with SI Mendis and PC 53241, where they remained for about one hour.

After an hour, they came out of the room and brought Chandila out from the cell. This whole incident was witnessed by another detainee, who was in the same cell, named Podi Santha (Lasantha). Chandila then understood that the police officers were trying to fabricate a theft case of cinnamon against him.

As Chandila was brought out of the cell, the officer told Podi Santha, "It is your turn next, be ready". By then it was 4 pm in the evening.

Chandila was brought to the kitchen of the police station by SI Mendis, PC 53241 and another officer. There the officers ordered him to remove all his clothes.

The officers started to shout at him using obscene language. They further accused him of being 'Hakura' (derogatory words used to insult and defame people belonging to that caste). Chandila felt that he was being discriminated against by the officers. The officers further humiliated him by saying that they "wanted to use his ass".

The officers first bound Chandila's hands behind his back. Then they threw another rope over a ceiling beam, which they attached to the rope binding Chandila's hands. He was made to stand on a chair and the officers took up the slack on the rope. When they were ready, PC 53241 kicked the chair out from under Chandila, leaving him hanging by his wrists.

Chandila was in enormous pain and felt as if his shoulders and wrists were broken. Then SI Mendis asked him, "How are you feeling now, are you ready to tell the truth now?" With considerable courage, Chandila replied that he had nothing to say and reiterated that he had not committed any crime. SI Mendis then told other two officers that he had still had not sweated enough and to leave him in the same position for some more time.

After some time, Chandila does not know how long, he started sweating all over his body. However, when PC 53241 again asked him to tell the truth, Chandila told the PC that he had nothing to say.

Then Chandila felt that he was losing consciousness and his vision was fading.

The officers lowered him to the ground. Again, PC 53241 asked him if he was ready to reveal the truth. When Chandila again told him that he did not know anything and had not committed any crime the officers again hauled him up by the rope. Then PC 53241 started to beat Chandila's feet with a broomstick and asked him if he was at least ready to tell a lie. PC 53241 also beat Chandila's genitals, asking him if he was married or not.

PC 53241 then brought a plastic bag of chili powder and asked Chandila if he knew what he was going to do with it.

OIC Chandrasiri entered the kitchen and asked Chandila whether he knew a person called Susantha from Ambalangoda. When Chandila said that he did, the OIC ordered the other officers to release him. The officers did so and made him sit on the ground, propped up against the wall, as he could not support himself. Finally, the officers told him that they were going to file a fabricated charge for the illegal possession of a bomb and send him to prison for four years.

The officers told him to get dressed but he was not able to do so by himself. Another officer helped him dress and took him back to his cell. Chandila was in such pain and anguish that he was not able to do anything for himself. When he wanted to urinate, Podi Santha, who was inside the cell brought a Coca Cola bottle, undid the zipper of Chandila's pants and helped him to relieve himself. Later, Podi Santha also helped him to drink some water and eat some rice.

That evening, around 50-60 people from the village arrived at the police station to visit Chandila. Among them was the Environmental Officer of the Local Government Institute of the area, Mr. Ananda Rupasinghe, who was there with his wife. Mr. Rupasinghe went directly to the OIC of the station and told him that Chandila was not a criminal, that he was innocent, but the OIC refused to release him.

The next morning, at around 10 am, SI Mendis entered the cell where Chandila was detained and told him that he could file any amount of cases against the police, protest all he wanted against the police, and reminded him that, if he did so, he would take Chandila to Ambalangoda Beach and sodomise him. Chandila understood that his life was in serious danger because of these police officers.

At 5 pm, the officers brought Chandila by jeep to the private dispensary of a doctor at Polwatte in Ambalangoda. The name of the doctor was Prasanna Wijesinghe. There were three police officers inside the jeep while taking him to the doctor including SI Mendis, PC 53241 and another officer. At the dispensary SI Mendis and PC 53241 went inside, leaving the other officer and Chandila in the jeep. After 30 minutes, the officer with Chandila was tired of waiting and knocked on the door. Chandila was brought inside and helped to sit on a chair in front of the doctor.

The doctor asked Chandila if he was from Karandeniya, to which he replied that he was. Then the doctor told him that he was the one who rescued the chief of his people and said that, "Your people do not have any gratitude at all". Chandila understood that for some unknown reason the doctor was angry and wanted to discriminate against the people coming from Karandeniya. Chandila further realised that the doctor and the police officers all had an appalling attitude towards the people of his caste, which is considered to be low down on the hierarchical caste order and who are the predominant majority in the Karandeniya area. Chandila felt that he was being treated in a humiliating manner.

Then the doctor simply filled in the form that was presented to him by the police officers. He did not question or examine Chandila for his medical condition despite the fact that he was in severe pain after being subjected to inhuman torture. Chandila felt that the doctor did not carry out his duty as a professional but instead connived with the police officers to deny him of his rights.

After three days of detention inside the police station, the officers produced Chandila before the Magistrate of Elpitiya on 10 May 2013. When he was brought to the court it was not in session and he was produced before the Magistrate in his private chambers. When Chandila was produced, Mr. Dammika, Attorney-at-Law, appeared for him and Chandila revealed to the Magistrate that he had been tortured by the police officers. Chandila also informed the Magistrate that he had been arrested on 7 May, and therefore detained for more than 24 hours. However, the Magistrate did not question the police concerning this matter. He was remanded until 16 May 2013 and taken to the Galle Remand Prison.

At the prison, Chandila was not provided with any medical treatment that day but, as his condition worsened the following day (11 May), he was taken to the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital for medical treatment by the prison authorities at 9:30 am. Chandila explained to the doctor about how he was subjected to torture by the police officers. The doctor examined Chandila and recorded his condition and injuries.

Chandila was then produced before the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO), who also recorded photographic evidence of his injuries. Considering the severity of his condition, the JMO advised the prison authorities to admit Chandila to the hospital as an indoor patient for further treatment. The prison authorities initially refused and wanted to take Chandila back to the prison against the doctor's advice, but the doctor insisted, and Chandila was later admitted to the Ward 58 of the hospital. He was treated at the hospital until 13 May before being returned to the Galle Remand Prison by the officers.

On 16 May 2013, Chandila was produced before the Magistrate of Elpitiya and released on bail. He is still taking treatment for the injuries he suffered at the police station.

Chandila learned that another of his brothers, Chaminda Pathmakumara, had made a complaint on 11 May 2013 to the Assistant Superintendent of Police of Elpitiya against his illegal arrest, detention and torture.

Upon his release, Chandila made a complaint to the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of the Southern Province regarding the violation of his rights and was informed that there would be an inquiry on 23 May 2013. However, to date, no such inquiry has taken place.

Chandila later learned that police have filed a fabricated case against him under case No: 78654. Chandila believes that the police are fully aware of his innocence but filed the case to cover up the torture they perpetrated on him. He has yet to be informed of the charge. Chandila later learned that case has been postponed until 26 June 2013.

Chandila seeks justice.

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