SRI LANKA: Lalith Rajapakse acquitted; the Sri Lankan government must file charges against the police for fabrication of cases

Nineteen years old, Lalith Rajapakse was arrested by two police officers, Sub-Inspector Peiris and Police Constable Wijeratne in April 2002. He was severely assaulted and slipped into a coma while at the Kandana Police Station. After his family’s intervention, he was taken to the Ragama Hospital, from where he was transferred to the Central Hospital in Colombo. He was in a coma for over two weeks. Meanwhile, the Kandana police, on the instructions of the Officer-in-Charge of the Station at the time, Nalin Atthanayaka, filed three cases against Lalith. Two cases were of theft and the third was the obstruction of duty of two police officers as they attempted to arrest him. The police produced a large knife in court, stating that Lalith was holding this knife while trying to assault the officers.

Although the police tried to drag out these cases, the constant intervention by Lalith’s lawyers, supported by the Asian Human Rights Commission, ensured that the two cases of theft were heard, with all the complainants categorically stating that they had made no complaint against Lalith at any time and did not suspect him of theft or any other crime.¬† Lalith was thereby acquitted as there was not the slightest bit of evidence to support either charge.

The third case however, that of the alleged obstruction of police officers in their duty, dragged on until 21 February 2005, with the police making various requests for postponements. After several prior warnings, in September 2004 the magistrate told the prosecution to be ready for the case in February 2005. However, even on February 21 the prosecution was not ready, leading to Lalith’s lawyer moving for his discharge. In his submission, he stated that the prosecution was merely trying to drag this case out in order to harass Lalith and that there was no possibility of a conviction as the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code had not been observed: no statement regarding the charge was recorded from the accused and the case had not been filed in good faith as it was fabricated merely to justify the severe torture inflicted upon Lalith. After recording its reasons, the court discharged Lalith.

Due to these actions of the police, a young man who had committed no crime was dragged through the legal process from mid 2002 to February 2005. He had to attend court regularly and was constantly threatened by police officers. In fact, he was forced to flee his home and is currently in hiding.

There are many such fabricated cases filed against innocent persons throughout Sri Lanka, and due to poverty and fear these persons often succumb and even plead guilty to charges they have never committed. In this instance, it was primarily due to the help of a human rights organisation that Lalith was saved from such a fate. When young people are forced to plead guilty to offenses or are unable to afford decent lawyers and are subsequently convicted of fictitious charges, their entire lives are ruined. In many cases that the police are unable to solve, they produce persons accused in other cases as suspects. And having once been found guilty, these persons are then easily convicted of many other offenses of which they are innocent.

The filing and fabrication of charges is an offense under the Penal Code of Sri Lanka.  There are a few cases where criminal charges have been filed on this basis including a recent case against a senior police officer who allegedly falsely charged some army officers. The Asian Human Rights Commission requests the Attorney General and the Inspector General of Police to charge the three police officers responsible for filing false charges against Lalith under the same legal provisions. We also urge the government to pay compensation to the victim for charges that were both false and malicious. (The reference numbers of the cases of which Lalith Rajapakse has been acquitted are 92619 [acquitted today]; 81959 and 81957 [acquitted on 29 September 2003]).

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-18-2005
Countries : Sri Lanka,