SRI LANKA: Woman Torture Victim Vindicated by Supreme Court

On Aug. 2, 2002, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka declared a judgement in favour of Angeline Roshana, a 25-year-old woman who complained to the court of being tortured, illegally arrested and illegally detained by Inspector Selvin Saleh, officer in charge (OIC) of the Crimes Division of the Narahenpita police. The court held that her rights guaranteed under Articles 11, 13(1) and 13(2) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka had been violated by the police. The court in the judgement delivered by Justice Mark Fernando awarded her compensation of 100,000 rupees (US$1,172). 

Angelina went to court under the procedures existing in Sri Lankan law to file an action before the Supreme Court for a fundamental rights violation. Fundamental rights are defined in terms of the country’s Constitution. 

In Angeline’s petition, she claimed that she was arrested by a group of policemen led by Inspector Selvin Saleh who came to her home in a private vehicle and were not wearing police uniforms. She was then taken to the private residence of a wealthy family where Angeline used to do part-time domestic work. The lady of the house had sought the help of Inspector Seleh to recover a gold watch that she claimed she had lost and that Angeline had taken. When Angeline declared her innocence, she was verbally abused and kept in the house for several hours. Later she was taken to the Narahenpita police station where Inspector Saleh and another officer severely tortured her and verbally threatened and abused her. She was held at the police station for two days. 

While she was held at the police station for two days and tortured, several people approached by her parents visited her in the police station and inquired about the treatment she was receiving at the hands of the police. Through these interventions, she was produced before a magistrate to whom she complained of being tortured. The magistrate ordered her to be produced before a judicial medical officer (JMO), who recorded several injuries. All of the people who saw her submitted affidavits to the court describing what they had seen. 

Inspector Selah denied that he had tortured her or otherwise violated her rights. 

The petitioner, Angeline Roshana, was represented in court by W. Rasik Sanjeewa. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) assisted her in her efforts to file and pursue her complaint. 

In an earlier case filed against Angeline by the Narahenpita police for the theft of a gold watch, she was released by the magistrate in the magistrate’s court in Colombo. 

The Prosecution of Torture Victim’s Unit under the Dept. of the Attorney General has inquired into Angeline’s compliant and has filed an indictment against Inspector Seleh and another officer. Meanwhile, Inspector Seleh has left the country and gone to an unknown destination. 

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : MR-19-2002
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Torture,