The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that police officers attached to the Ganemulla Police Station have illegally arrested, detained and tortured a civilian. Later the police filed fabricated charges against him. After the victim sought justice by filling a fundamental rights application he was further threaten.
Balapu Waduge Lakshman Mendis (39) of No: 315/H, Horagalle, Ganemulla is married and a father of two children. He works as a driver at the Abans Organisation Ltd, a private company in the area. On 25 April 2010 his wife and children attended a New Year celebration held in the ‘Perera Pura’, the village in which they live. Later Lakshman also went to the place where the celebration was held by a three-wheeler which he drives. The three-wheeler belongs to the member of the Local Governance Institution of the area. He parked his three-wheeler on the side of the road and went into the inside where the events were taking place.
A short while later he returned to the three-wheeler to go back to his home. He observed four people sitting inside in a casual manner, smoking cigarettes and laying on the seat with their legs up. He requested them to get down as he wanted to leave. Then one of the four youths told him that he was the son of a high ranking police officer. They asked him, do you know who you are speaking to? This is the son of the Officer-in-Charge (OIC).
Later they got down and left. Lakshman took the three-wheeler and moved on. He stopped near a house of his friends. When he was there three of the youths arrived on a motorcycle. They threatened Lakshman with foul language and when they finally left he thought that the matter was finished.
At around 7.30 in the evening, Lakshman returned to the same place to see a musical show organized for the New Year celebrations.
A short while later a police Jeep of the Ganemulla Police Station arrived. The OIC who was in a black jacket and a black hat was in the Jeep and repeatedly demanded, who is Lakshman?
Then Lakshman went to the OIC, he thought that he had come to inquire into the earlier incident. Without warning the OIC hit him on the chest asking “Are you the man?” Lakshman fell to the ground and when he was trying to get up, the OIC assaulted him with a torch he was holding. He also kicked Lakshman who fell down again.
While Lakshman was being assaulting in this way the villagers started came to the place. Lakshman got up slowly and was able to enter the adjoining land, which belongs to Mr. Chaminda. However, the OIC was not satisfied and followed him, asking repeatedly “Where is the bugger?” Then he assaulted some other people who were there having soft drinks and who witnessed Lakshman being assaulting.
Then the son of the OIC who was in the Jeep came to the scene and pointed out Lakshman to his father (the OIC). The OIC caught Lakshman and used a helmet in his hand to strike him about the head. The police officers who had been sitting in the Jeep then came to the scene and surrounded Lakshman. They assaulted him by kicking him and punching him. They also stuck him with their firearms. As a result of the assault Lakshman fell to the ground again. They then dragged Lakshman to the jeep. As they did so the son of the OIC trampled and continued to assault him as he lay on the floor of the Jeep.
They brought Lakshman to the Ganemulla Police Station and on his arrival Sub Inspector (SI) Jayasinghe punched him several times.
Lakshman suffered severe pain all over his body and the marks of injuries were clearly evident. The officers took him to the Base Hospital of Gampaha where the doctors admitted him for further treatment considering the severity of his condition.
Later Lakshman came to learn that the OIC of the Ganemulla Police filed a fabricated case against him on for obstructing the official duties of police officer; grievous hurt to a higher ranking police officer; violent behavior in public while drunk under case No. B/1278/2010, in the Magistrate court of Gampaha. Later he was discharged on 29 April 2010 and transferred to the prison hospital at the Remand Prison of Mahara. The doctors who examined him at the Base Hospital of Gampaha reported his medical condition but there was no evidence in their report that the victim was inebriated.
On 4 May 2010, Lakshman was produced before the Magistrate court of Gampaha. He was represented by an Attorney-at-Law in the court with the assistance of a civil rights organization where he was able to submit the affidavit of his wife which testified to veracity of the facts regarding the incident. Following the submissions the Magistrate enlarged him on bail.
Furthermore, the four people who witnessed the assault gave affidavits confirming the incident. Lakshman then made several complaints to the relevant state authorities on 8 may 2010 asking for prompt, independent, impartial and effective investigation into the violations of his rights and the crimes committed against him by the OIC and the other police officers attached to the police station of Ganemulla. To-date, he has not received a single response to any of his complaints. He then took the course of filing an application at the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka on the basis that his fundamental rights (FR) guaranteed by the Constitution of Sri Lanka have been violated by the police officers, including the OIC of the police station of Ganemulla. The FR was filed on 2 June 2010 under case No. SCFR/ 341/2010.
Lakshman has revealed that after the filing this FR he and his family members have been intimidated and threatened by the police officers.
On 7 August, the application was supported in the Supreme Court and considering the credibility of the case the Supreme Court granted the leave to proceed with the application and ordered the relevant police officer, Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General to file their objections within two weeks. While the case was heard the counsel appearing for Lakshman drew the attention of the Judgers to the threat made to the petitioner and the State Counsel was directed to advise the relevant police officers to refrain from threatening the witness. The next hearing in the Supreme Court has been fixed for 6 December 2010.
The judges failed to apprehend that much can happen in the way of intimidation and open threats, if not actual violence to the victim and members of his family in the time leading up to the next hearing.
The Asian Human Rights Commission has reported innumerable cases of arbitrarily arrest, detentions, torturing the innocent when they are at the hands of the police and filling enormous amounts of fabricated charges against innocents by the Sri Lankan police which are illegal under international and local law and which have taken place at different police stations in the country over the past few years. The Asian Human Rights Commission has observed that Sri Lankan police have used the filling of fabricated chargers against innocent persons as an illegal instrument to harass the public.
The Constitution of Sri Lanka has guaranteed the right freedom from torture. According to Article 11 of the Constitution ‘No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’. Article 12 (1) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka has guaranteed the right to equality for all persons as stated that ‘all persons are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law’. Further Article 13 (1) has stated that ‘No person shall be arrested except according to procedure established by law. Any person arrested shall be informed of the reason for his arrest’.
Furthermore, Sri Lanka has signed and ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Nevertheless the lack of protection offered to those who are willing to take cases against abusive police officers and the state authorities, means that the law is under-used continues to be employed as a tool by the police to harass people. This not only takes a long-term toll on the victim and his or her family, but on society as a whole, by the undermining of civilian respect for the law and encouraging impunity.
The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) was signed by the State of Sri Lanka and ratified on 3 January 1994. Following state obligations Sri Lanka adopted Act No. 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 supposed to file indictments in the case where credible evidence is found on the torturing of people by state officers.
Furthermore, the Asian Human Rights Commission has continuously exposed the way the witness and the victims are getting harassed and on some occasions even killed to suppress the justice. Furthermore we have urged the State of Sri Lanka to adopt a law for the protection of witness protection.
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, arbitrary detention, torturing, filling fabricated charges and finally threatening the witness 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 officers and for mis-prosecution. The officers involved must also be subjected to internal investigations for the breach of the department orders as issued by the police department.
Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission has already written separate letters to the Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture of United Nations on this regard.