SRI LANKA: Complainants and witnesses continue to suffer from police harassment in Sri Lanka

Numerous torture victims, their families and other witnesses have reported being threatened with death or other violence due to persisting with their complaints against initial injuries. In most instances, the victims and their families are harassed by the police against whom complaints are filed. The law in Sri Lanka does not provide any avenues for victims to obtain speedy redress in situations when they are facing threats due to the complaints they have made. Nor do there exist any witness protection programs that can offer support to the victims facing these threats, as was pointed out by the Attorney General in a public speech last year.

It is thus inevitable that 40-year-old Herman Quintus Perera’s family and other eyewitnesses to his death are now suffering harassment by the police and their associates. According to the family’s lawyers, the Polonnaruwa police have been threatening Perera’s family to prevent their appearance at the Polonnaruwa Magistrate’s Court to testify. The accused in the case are a police Sub-Inspector, a Sergeant and two Constables. Many of the eyewitnesses to the murder in early October 2004 had fled in fear of their lives, making it very difficult to obtain relevant material and affidavits. Now the police are attempting to scare away the victim’s family as well.

In the case of 16-year-old Hikkaduwa Liyanage Sandun Kumara, who was allegedly tortured by several police officers attached to the Rathgama Police Station from 12-19 September 2003, his family has complained of numerous threats and harassments, the latest of which occurred this week. While a case has been filed in the Supreme Court (No. 570 of 2003) the family are currently trying to find a place of safety for the boy. According to the boy’s lawyers, although he has been kept in hiding by his family, a fabricated case against him by the Rathgama police requires that he appear before the Galle Magistrate Court from time to time, which has affected his wellbeing and safety. Furthermore, the police officers are now demanding that Kumara and his family accept a paltry sum of compensation and drop the charges against them.

Torture victim Kadawatha Gedara Dharmasiri, a 32-year-old laborer, received severe threats from the police to withdraw his complaint of torture against officers of the Hasalaka police station, requiring him to stay away from his home for some time. Being a father of four children, he had to return home, at which time he was threatened again. According to a human rights organization assisting him, on 22 October 2004 police officer Denagama-the officer who allegedly tortured Dharmasiri-went to see Dharmasiri and told him that the Officer-In-Charge (OIC) of the Hasalaka police station wanted to see him on the next day. When Dharmasiri went to see the OIC, he was asked to withdraw his Fundamental Rights case against the police and to accept Rs. 7500 as compensation.

In these three cases, like in many other cases, the victims, their families and other witnesses are put in difficult and trying positions. The victims’ families are in most instances unable to provide the protection and security necessary for the physical and mental wellbeing of the victims. Instead of obtaining justice, the victims in such situations are forced to suffer further for having made complaints about their earlier grievances. The Asian Human Rights Commission therefore urges all relevant Sri Lankan authorities to

1. Inquire into these and other cases and provide adequate protection and redress to victims;
2. Take action against the intimidation of all complaints and witnesses; and
3. Improve the legal protection available to complainants and victims.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-46-2004
Countries : Sri Lanka,