The Asian Human Rights Commission wrote to Mr. John Amaratunga, Minister of Interior Ministry of Interior, Colombo, Sri Lanka today (3rd June 2002) on persons who are alleged criminals who continue to be police officers of various ranks in the police stations in Sri Lanka. A summary of the report is as follows:
Reports of Criminals in Sri Lankan Police
In Sri Lanka, torture and other cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment is a serious crime with a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment for seven years through the prescriptions of Act No. 22 of 1994. Yet there are hundreds of people accused of this crime functioning as police officers of various ranks. The people against whom declarations regarding the commission of torture have been made by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka itself are very many. Almost every month more people are added to these lists. However, these people continue to function as law enforcement officers, ignoring the law of the land mentioned above, all disciplinary procedures and Sri Lanka’s international obligations as a signatory to several covenants and conventions.
In just the month of May 2002 itself, we have learned of several gruesome stories of torture.
The case of Lalith Rajapakse, for example, who suffered brutal torture at the hands of the police in the Kandana police station is unbelievable and shocking. He remained unconscious for more than 15 days after he had been sent to the hospital from the Kandana police station. His condition has been described as traumatic encephalitis due to assault. He is recovering very slowly and will continue to suffer all his life. The more brutal aspect of this case is that, while this young man was undergoing such suffering, the officers who allegedly caused these injuries fabricated and filed three cases against him in the magistrate’s court in Wattala. All of this violence is allowed to happen in a police station that is supposed to protect the rights of people and provide security. There are similar stories about the conditions in France before the French Revolution. A novel about Sri Lanka by Leonard Woolf, Village in the Jungle, also describes this type of cruelty, and it is unfortunately continuing into the 21st century as well. In this case though, police officers have added something new to past episodes: they have obtained an order to remand the torture victim, who was in an unconscious condition, without even producing the victim in court! When the magistrate discovered this situation almost one month later, he vacated the order as an order that had been illegally obtained. After all of this, the officers still continue to wear uniforms and function as police officers!
Lalith Rajapakse’s case, however, is not an exception as is shown by the case of Gresha de Silva. In this case, the victim was hung and tortured by several officers in the Habaraduwa police station. The victim has now lost the use of both hands, and the medical opinion is that this loss will be permanent.
Then there is the case of W. M. Ariyathilaka who was killed in the China Bay police station. The police tried to make it appear though that the victim had committed suicide. However, the medical opinion clearly is that the victim had been strangled. Finger marks were present, and the medical officer recorded external and internal injuries.
In addition, there is a case from Wariapola, the case of Nanditha Sriyalatha who was sexually abused and tortured in the Wariapola police station while she was detained at the police station for more than three days. Her father has lodged a complaint.
These are just a few cases, which tragically indicate that a state of terror exists in police stations in spite of the enactment of Act No. 22 of 1994.
We urge you to make provisions for speedy criminal and disciplinary inquiries into these cases and to clean the police of criminals. The country is clearly facing a breakdown of law and order. Even in cases where children are kidnapped, people do not trust the police now to be of any help to them. At the end of May, the parents of a kidnapped child paid Rs. 2.5 million (US$29,294) to kidnappers to save their child instead of relying on the police. This is no surprise when criminals are allowed to function as police officers.
It is time to face this fact: if there is to be any change of this situation, criminal actions under Act No. 22 of 1994 and immediate disciplinary actions are a dire need.
Asian Human Rights Commission, 3 June 2002, Hong Kong
For further information contact Basil Fernando, AHRC Executive Director at: +(852) 2698-6339 (office) or 2696-9130 (A.H.)