SRI LANKA: Still no arrests in Sri Lanka torture victim murder case

It is now five days since the shooting of Gerald Mervin Perera, who died yesterday, November 24. However, as yet there have been no arrests. Nor have there been any reports of progress in investigations. In fact, there do not appear to be any serious inquiries at all. As Gerald Perera was due to stand as a witness in a criminal case against seven police officers, inevitably there will be serious efforts to throw off any investigation into the crime. 

It is the duty of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Attorney General of Sri Lanka to ensure that criminal inquiries are held promptly, efficiently and according to law. The lack of effective inquiries subverts the whole process of justice. In crimes where alleged perpetrators may be state officers, inaction amounts to the granting of impunity to perpetrators.

Murder is made easy when no one investigates it, and in Sri Lanka it is being made extremely easy. Failure to investigate murder can happen only if the police hierarchy permits it. For this, the IGP and other high-ranking officers hold ultimate accountability. If the system remains inert after murder, talk about fighting crime is meaningless. 
In this case, the murder was committed in daylight, and a trail of clues left behind should have been sufficient to arrest the perpetrator by now. Three were eyewitnesses present. The getaway car was identified. A policeman who was with Gerald just prior to his being shot has also been identified. The motive for the killing is obvious. Two days before Gerald Perera was shot, a high court judge and his guard were also killed. Investigators have worked quickly in that case to obtain information from the public towards apprehending the suspects. By contrast, Gerald’s murder has been treated as unimportant. 

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) condemns the unwillingness and the inability of the police to investigate the murder of Gerald Perera and arrest the perpetrators. This inaction amounts to encouragement to the perpetrators to commit further crimes. 

The AHRC is also deeply shocked at the silence of the Attorney General over this killing. The reason that Gerald was killed is that he was going to testify in a case that the Attorney General had lodged against police who tortured him at Wattala in 2002. In deciding to prosecute the case, the Attorney General is also under obligation to protect the witnesses. However, Gerald had no protection. As a result, his torturers were able to destroy him. 

Flowing from the obligation of the Attorney General to protect witnesses is his duty to investigate crimes committed against witnesses when they occur. Unfortunately, not only has the Attorney General in this case failed in his primary duty of protection, he has also failed to take any serious steps to investigate the killing. 

Complaints have also been made to the National Police Commission and Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. However, neither has yet taken effective action to vindicate the rights of the victim.  

Clearly the victims of torture in Sri Lanka, their families and defenders are in grave peril. The AHRC again urges the IGP, other senior police and the Attorney General of Sri Lanka to cause a prompt investigation into the murder of Gerald Perera, prosecute the perpetrators, and ensure that the victim’s family is properly protected and compensated. This must be done for the sake of the family as well as all torture victims and their supporters in the country. 

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-53-2004
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Administration of justice, Police violence, Torture,