The Officer-in-Charge of the Jaffna office of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) of Sri Lanka and a UN volunteer were assaulted yesterday, September 27, 2004, as they were engaged in inquiring about a complaint of torture at the Jaffna Police Station. In an interview to the Sinhala Service of the BBC, Sandeshaya, the HRC officer explained the incident in detail, saying that he sent an officer to investigate into a person being tortured at the Jaffna police station. The officer soon telephoned the Officer-in-Charge of the HRC stating that he was at the police station premises and could hear a man shouting “ammo”, indicating someone shouting in pain. The Officer-in-Charge of the HRC has immediately informed the Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) and obtained permission to go to the police station. The ASP also told a police officer to accompany the HRC Officer-in-Charge and a UN volunteer to the police station.
When the HRC officer and UN volunteer appeared at the police station, there were about 35 police officers gathered there. These officers started jeering and making abusive statements to them. The HRC officer explained that they were just there to do their duty, when he was pushed and hit on the head. He is able to identify the officer who hit him, as he visits the police station often. Then, he and the UN volunteer were both pushed out of the police station. At the same time, the torture victim who was shouting in pain was taken out of the police station and put inside a police vehicle. The HRC officer said he saw someone sitting on the torture victim in side the vehicle. Just then, the ASP appeared and was shown the torture victim being taken away by the HRC officer. He also told the ASP of his assault, and said he could identify the officers. The ASP then called all the police officers to come for identification purposes, but only about nine officers out of the 35 came. The police officer who hit him was not one of the nine. While stating to the BBC that it was the duty of the HRC to inspect police stations and to investigate illegal detention and torture, the HRC officer questioned how the public would be treated by the police when HRC officers were treated in this way.
This is the second incident in less than three months in which HRC officers have been obstructed or assaulted when attempting to inspect police stations. An earlier incident was reported from the Payagala police station.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) understands that the HRC has already complained about this matter to the Inspector General of Police (IGP).
The AHRC calls upon the Sri Lankan government to thoroughly investigate this matter and take serious action against the officers concerned. The conduct of the ASP should also be investigated. As the obstruction to public officers in carrying out their duties is a criminal offence, the culprits must be investigated and charged. AHRC call upon the IGP and the National Police Commission to also investigate and take speedy action on this matter.
AHRC express our support to the officers who were subjected to this indignity and call upon the HRC to take all necessary steps to bring the culprits to justice. In doing so, any form of compromise will be self defeating. AHRC also call upon the human rights community in Sri Lanka and outside to intervene in this matter.