SRI LANKA: Torture complainant fears threats to his life plotted by ASP Ranmal Kodithuwaaku

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is concerned about another case of a torture complainant being threatened, similar to that of Gerald Perera. Mr. Nimal Silva Gunaratne, a victim of brutal torture, has complained to the Sri Lankan authorities including the Inspector General of Police, the Attorney General and the Human Rights Commission (HRC) that the alleged perpetrator, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Ranmal Koddithuwaku, has made attempts on his life through other police officers as well as attempting to implicate him in several fabricated cases.

Mr. Gunaratne has alleged that in 2000, while Koddithuwaku was ASP at Panadura, he maintained a torture chamber and kept Mr. Gunaratne under detention for 96 days.  During that time he was brutally tortured and as a result, he lost sight in one eye and suffered several other serious injuries. After filing a Fundamental Rights case (no. 565/2000) in the Supreme Court, Mr. Gunaratne found himself and his family under serious pressure to settle the case, which he consistently refused to do. The case was postponed many times until the Supreme Court finally concluded the hearing on 15 November 2004 and judgment is now awaited. Mr. Gunaratne and his family have faced constant threats throughout this time and have made numerous complaints regarding these to higher police authorities and the HRC.

Under the instructions of the Attorney General’s Department, a special criminal investigation was conducted with the view to prosecuting ASP Koddithuwaku under Act No. 22 of 1994. In June 2002, Senior State Counsel Yasantha Kodagoda advised the Criminal Investigations Department to “cause a criminal investigation into the complaint, and upon conclusion of the investigation, forward the corresponding notes of investigation, enabling the consideration of institution of criminal proceedings”. This investigation is now complete and before the Attorney General for prosecution.

It is under these circumstances that the threats to Mr. Gunaratne and his family have increased. On 6 March 2005 at around 9:45pm shots were fired towards Mr. Gunaratne’s house from the vicinity of neighboring homes, where a police officer also lives. Mr. Gunaratne and his family lay on the floor until a neighbor called to them, saying that the people who fired the shots were escaping. From his gate, Mr. Gunaratne could see three uniformed police officers and two plain clothed persons running to a white vehicle and driving away. Mr. Gunaratne made an immediate complaint to the police, including the Senior Superintendent (SSP) and the Superintendent (SP) of the area. Although police officers came to his house and took statements, no action has yet been taken to investigate or arrest the perpetrators. The National Police Commission and HRC have also been informed of the incident. However, the inaction by all authorities has meant that Mr. Gunaratne and his family are living in fear of their lives, moving from place to place to ensure their own security.

Their fear is founded in the murder of Gerald Perera, who was shot just a few days before he was to testify in court against some police officers on torture charges. Furthermore, the current anti-crime drive in Sri Lanka has given enormous liberties for arrest and even extrajudicial killing of persons once they are made to appear as serious criminals. Given the rank and position of ASP Koddithuwaku, Mr. Gunaratne is afraid that action can be taken against him through the manipulation of these liberties.

ASP Koddithuwaku is the son of a former Inspector General of Police and has a notorious reputation. The Supreme Court recently issued leave to appeal in another Fundamental Rights case where a person alleged that Koddithuwaku assaulted him in broad daylight because he refused to give way to his car. Previously, Koddithuwaku also allegedly threatened the investigations’ director of the HRC inside the Commission’s premises. His fabricated cases against Mr. Gunaratne have led to Mr. Gunaratne being arrested and produced in court several times; he was released only after the court was made aware of the conflict between ASP Koddithuwaku and himself. However, due to his connections and rank, Koddithuwaku is not held accountable for his actions and continues to commit human rights violations.

It has become common in Sri Lanka not only for police officers to violate the rights of citizens, but to further harass and threaten these citizens for seeking redress against the injustice done to them. The lack of witness and victim protection as well as the lack of legal and disciplinary measures taken against the perpetrators allows violations to continue with impunity.

The Asian Human Rights Commission urges that immediate protection be provided to Mr. Guneratne and his family while an investigation is conducted into the recent shooting and the fabrication charges against him. Furthermore, the Attorney General’s department must proceed with ASP Koddithuwaku’s prosecution under the CAT Act No. 22.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-27-2005
Countries : Sri Lanka,