Since the attempted murder on last Sunday, November 21 of Gerald Perera, a victim of police torture in Sri Lanka, no protection has been provided to either him or his family. Gerald, who was shot in advance of giving evidence against the police in the Negombo High Court (case no. HC 326/2003), is struggling for his life in hospital. Meanwhile, at this time when his family is in deep shock and fear, senior police officers appear to be cynically manipulating their distress to obtain a statement to the effect that they are unaware of who may have planned to kill him. These officers seem to be conspiring to hush up the inevitable conclusion that the shooting is connected to the case pending before the court. However, the family and other persons close to Gerald have categorically stated that he had no personal enemies outside those connected to the case.
The police who are the respondents in the case have good reason to be worried about the outcome. Gerald Perera had already won a fundamental rights case in the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka over the same incident of torture (case no. SCFR 328/2003), and had obtained an order for a record compensation payment. The accused in the pending criminal case would face a minimum of seven years imprisonment under the Convention against Torture Act (No. 22 of 1994). Inevitably, Gerald was under pressure to go back on his complaint that led to the Attorney General filing the case, in which he was due to appear this December 2: tragically, the court summons was still in his pocket when he was shot.
According to the law, police officers facing criminal charges should be suspended or interdicted from their service pending the outcome of the trial. However, the accused men in this case have been allowed to remain at their jobs even after the case had been lodged. The National Police Commission is inquiring into this matter.
Despite numerous interventions in the case from many quarters, no steps have yet been taken to give protection to Gerald and his family. Neither has anyone yet been arrested over the attempted murder, despite the shooting having taken place on a public bus at around 11:15am, an eyewitness confirming that he could identify the attacker in a line-up, and the licence plate number of the vehicle that carried the attacker also being known.
The family is now terrified that the children may come to harm. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is again calling upon the authorities to intervene urgently in this situation of immense cruelty. Both the hospitalised victim and his family need security, and now. Recent claims by the government of Sri Lanka that it intends to get tough on crime are being made a mockery by this shooting and failure of the responsible agencies to respond by way of quick investigations and thorough protection. The AHRC also calls upon the diplomatic community and international groups in Sri Lanka to take up the case and express concern over the extreme injustice and gross abuse of human rights as yet being experienced by the victim and his family.