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SRI LANKA: Innocent man illegally arrested, tortured and forced to sign fraudulent documents by police

March 17, 2011

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION-URGENT APPEAL PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-062-2011

 

17 March 2011
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SRI LANKA: Innocent man illegally arrested, tortured and forced to sign fraudulent documents by police

ISSUES: Illegal arrest; arbitrary detention; torture; impunity; rule of law
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Dear friends, 

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that Mr. Vettuwel Wijayakumar of Kallamale Estate, Bulathsinhala in the district of Kalutara was illegally arrested and severely tortured by the police officers attached to the Bulathsinhala Police Station on 11 December 2010. Wijekumar was brought to the police station while he was waiting to have a haircut. The officers arrested him and brought him to the police station and forced him to sign fraudulent documents which he refused. He was severely tortured but continued to refuse as he cannot read Sinhalese language. However, due to severe torture he finally signed the documents and was later released. He made a complaint to the Assistant Superintendent of Police and other authorities. He was treated first at Pimbure Government Hospital and then at Nagoda General Hospital. This case is yet another illustration of the exceptional collapse of the rule of law in the country.

 

 

CASE NARRATIVE:

 

 

According to the information the Asian Human Rights Commission received Mr. Vettuwel Wijayakumar (28) of Kallamale Estate, Bulathsinhala is married, a father of two and a labourer by profession.  

 

On 11 December 2010 areound 11 am he went to the Bulathsinhala town to have a haircut. While he was waiting for his turn at the salon he observed that two policemen arrived by motorcycle. One of the officers asked Wijayakumar whether his name is Sinna and he told them that his name is V. Wijayakumar. The police officers arrested him and brought to the Bulathsinhala Police Station. At the police station he was presented with two documents that had already been prepared and was asked to sign them. Wijayakumar refused explaining that he did not know the contents of the documents and that he could not read Sinhala. At that time he was assaulted and again asked to sign the documents. He continued to refuse and the officers, one of whom was later identified as Police Sergeant Chithrananda, beat him with a hose pipe.



Sergeant Chithrananda dragged Wijayakumar to a room in the police station where they continued to beat him and pressuring him to sigh the book. Finally Wijayakumar complied out of fear of further assault. After they got his signature they kicked him out of the station.

When Wijayakumar left the police station Sergeant Chithrananda shouted at him not to go the home of Ms. Siriyawathi (whom he knew). As he had no idea of what the sergeant was talking about Wijayakumar went directly to her house. As she was not at home Wijayakumar went to the next home belonging to Mr. Renuka. Sometime later Ms. Siriyawathi arrived and Wijayakumar showed all the injuries he suffered due to the torture. All the people present were surprised and shocked and informed him that they did not have anything against him.

Then Siriyawathi went with Wijayakumar to the office of the Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) in Matugama to make a complaint against the assault faced by Wijayakumar. But the ASP told them to go to hospital for treatment and to come back another day as there were no officers to record his statement. So Wijayakumar went to Pimbura Government Hospital for treatment. At the hospital he revealed to the doctor that he was assaulted by policemen at Bulathsinhala Police Station. He was admitted to the hospital and then transferred to Nagoda General Hospital in Kalutara for further treatment. At the Nagoda Hospital his statement was recorded. He was discharged on 13 December 2010.

After he was discharged from the hospital, he made written complaints to Inspector General of Police (IGP), Human Rights Commission (HRC) and National Police Commission (NPC) and he is eagerly awaiting justice. The victim narrated the way he was tortured in the video.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

The Asian Human Rights Commission has reported innumerable cases of torturing innocent by the Sri Lankan police which are illegal under international and local law which have taken place at different Police Station in the country over the past few years.

The State of Sri Lanka sign and ratified the CAT on 3 January 1994. Following state obligations Sri Lanka adopted Act number 22 of 1994 the law adopted by the Sri Lankan parliament making torture a crime that can be punishable for minimum seven years and not less than ten years on being proven guilty. The Attorney General of Sri Lanka is suppose to file indictments in the case where credible evidence were found on torturing people by state officers.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please send a letter to the authorities listed below expressing your concern about this case and requesting an immediate investigation into the allegations of illegal arrest, illegal detention, torturing by the police perpetrators, and the prosecution of those proven to be responsible under the criminal law of the country for misusing powers of a state. The officers involved must also be subjected to internal investigations for the breach of the department orders as issued by the police department. Further, please also request the NPC and the IGP to have a special investigation into the malpractices of the police officers for abusing the state officers' powers.

Please note that the AHRC has also written a separate letter to the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on this regard.

To support this appeal please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ________,

SRI LANKA: Innocent man illegally arrested, tortured and forced to sign fraudulent documents by police

Name of the victim: Mr. Vettuwel Wijayakumar of Kallamale Estate, Bulathsinhala
Alleged perpetrator: Police Sergeant Chithrananda and police officers attached to the Police Station of Bulathsinhala
Date of incident: 11 December 2010
Place of incident: Bulathsinhala Police Station

I am writing to express my serious concern over the case of Mr. Mr. Vettuwel Wijayakumar (28) of Kallamale Estate, Bulathsinhala who is married, a father of two and a labourer by profession.

On 11 December 2010 areound 11 am he went to the Bulathsinhala town to have a haircut. While he was waiting for his turn at the salon he observed that two policemen arrived by motorcycle. One of the officers asked Wijayakumar whether his name is Sinna and he told them that his name is V. Wijayakumar. The police officers arrested him and brought to the Bulathsinhala Police Station. At the police station he was presented with two documents that had already been prepared and was asked to sign them. Wijayakumar refused explaining that he did not know the contents of the documents and that he could not read Sinhala. At that time he was assaulted and again asked to sign the documents. He continued to refuse and the officers, one of whom was later identified as Police Sergeant Chithrananda, beat him with a hose pipe.

Sergeant Chithrananda dragged Wijayakumar to a room in the police station where they continued to beat him and pressuring him to sigh the book. Finally Wijayakumar complied out of fear of further assault. After they got his signature they kicked him out of the station.

When Wijayakumar left the police station Sergeant Chithrananda shouted at him not to go the home of Ms. Siriyawathi (whom he knew). As he had no idea of what the sergeant was talking about Wijayakumar went directly to her house. As she was not at home Wijayakumar went to the next home belonging to Mr. Renuka. Sometime later Ms. Siriyawathi arrived and Wijayakumar showed all the injuries he suffered due to the torture. All the people present were surprised and shocked and informed him that they did not have anything against him.

Then Siriyawathi went with Wijayakumar to the office of the Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) in Matugama to make a complaint against the assault faced by Wijayakumar. But the ASP told them to go to hospital for treatment and to come back another day as there were no officers to record his statement. So Wijayakumar went to Pimbura Government Hospital for treatment. At the hospital he revealed to the doctor that he was assaulted by policemen at Bulathsinhala Police Station. He was admitted to the hospital and then transferred to Nagoda General Hospital in Kalutara for further treatment. At the Nagoda Hospital his statement was recorded. He was discharged on 13 December 2010.

After he was discharged from the hospital, he made written complaints to Inspector General of Police (IGP), Human Rights Commission (HRC) and National Police Commission (NPC) and he is eagerly awaiting justice.

I request your urgent intervention to ensure that the authorities listed below instigate an immediate investigation into the allegations of illegal arrest, illegal detention, torture by the police perpetrators, and the prosecution of those proven to be responsible under the criminal law of the country for misusing powers of state officers and for wrongful prosecution. The officers involved must also be subjected to internal investigations for the breach of the department orders as issued by the police department.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Mahinda Balasuriya
Inspector General of Police
New Secretariat
Colombo 1
SRI LANKA
Fax: +94 11 2 440440 / 327877
E-mail: igp@police.lk

2. Mr. Mohan Peiris
Attorney General
Attorney General's Department
Colombo 12
SRI LANKA
Fax: +94 11 2 436421
E-mail: ag@attorneygeneral.gov.lk

3. Secretary
National Police Commission
3rd Floor, Rotunda Towers
109 Galle Road
Colombo 03
SRI LANKA
Tel: +94 11 2 395310
Fax: +94 11 2 395867
E-mail: npcgen@sltnet.lk or polcom@sltnet.lk

4. Secretary
Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission
No. 108
Barnes Place
Colombo 07
SRI LANKA
Tel: +9411 2694925, +9411 2685980, +9411 2685981
Fax: +9411 2694924 (General) +94112696470 (Chairman)
E-mail: sechrc@sltnet.lk


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
AHRC-UAC-062-2011
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.