SRI LANKA: AHRC supports Deputy Solicitor General’s call for top priority to be given to the improvement of forensic facilities in Sri Lanka

“Sri Lanka is now at the threshold of a major disaster”, said the Deputy Solicitor General, (DSG) Palitha Fernando.  Speaking at a conference organised by the Sri Lankan Medical Association, Mr Fernando said that more than 80 % of those accused of murder were discharged as witnesses were unwilling to appear out of fear of reprisal.  Thus, acquittals have been largely linked to a lack of witness evidence.  It has also been regularly quoted that there exists a mere 4 % conviction rate in criminal cases due largely to the same reason.

Mr Fernando urged, therefore, that top priority be given to the establishing of modern forensic services so that DNA evidence could contribute where witnesses were unwilling to do so.  Stressing the importance of this Mr Fernando stated, “it is time that we take this issue up at the highest possible level because the country is now at the threshold of a major disaster.  Police have confessed to me that people are scared of giving evidence in fear of gangsters”.

At the same workshop forensic science professor Ravindra Fernando said that “the estimated cost of the construction of a forensic lab would cost only around Rs. 30,000,000/= (US$ 300,000.00)”.  He further added, however, that the policy makers are not interested in this idea, despite the enormous potential it would have in bringing justice to criminal cases.

The Asian Human Rights Commission has constantly stated that the rhetoric surrounding crime control in Sri Lanka is merely political propaganda and that there is no serious effort being made to ensure the control of crime within the country.  Writing to the Sri Lanka authorities when they were preparing for last year’s budget, the AHRC urged that monies be allocated for the improvement of forensic facilities.  On an earlier occasion it was revealed that Sri Lanka does not have a proper finger printing facility, and as a result, for about ten years fingerprint records sent from the Magistrate’s courts have not been analysed.  Upon making inquiries into this matter the AHRC discovered that the estimated cost of such a facility would be around 1.5 Million Euros.  However, this cost has not been provided for by the government, nor has there been any attempt to raise such funds from donors who are interested in the rebuilding of the rule of law and improving social stability.

The Attorney General, in a public address made in 2003, also questioned the failure to invest in the rule of law when he said:

“I will only pose a simple question.  Is it more important in a civilised society to build roads to match with international standards, spending literally millions of dollars, rather than to have a peaceful and law abiding society where the rule of law prevails?”

(K.C. Kamlasabayson, PC Attorney General of Sri Lanka, 13th Kanchan Abhayapala Memorial Lecture, 2 December 2003)

It is time that the issue of providing resources for the building of forensic facilities be publicly debated in Sri Lanka and that the outcome of which is resolved as soon as possible.

We urge all members of the Sri Lankan parliament to make their views known to the pubic on this issue.  We further urge the president, the prime minister and the opposition leader in Sri Lanka, in particular, to unequivocally state their position on the issue and to set a time frame within which such financial resources will be made available for the realisation of this goal.  We also urge all political parties to do the same.

We appeal to civil society associations, particularly those who are working towards the re-establishment of the rule of law in Sri Lanka, to make this issue a top priority amongst their programmes.

We fully support Mr Fernando’s call to have top priority afforded to the improvement of forensic facilities. Without such facilities, the crises in Sri Lanka’s criminal conviction rate will continue to worsen, allowing people to walk free from their crimes. We therefore call on the entire community to wholeheartedly support the establishment of , to ensure that criminals are brought to justice and that the rule of law is upheld.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-22-2005
Countries : Sri Lanka,