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SRI LANKA: Criminal Investigation Department officers torture a man then attempt to kill him

September 17, 2010

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION-URGENT APPEAL PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-143-2010

 

17 September 2010

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SRI LANKA: Criminal Investigation Department officers torture a man then attempt to kill him

ISSUES: torture; impunity; rule of law; denial of necessary medical treatment
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that the Sri Lankan Navy arrested a civilian and later handed him over to officers of the Maravila Police Station. They in turn handed over the victim to officers of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Later the CID officers tortured the victim and denied him urgently needed medical treatment for the injuries suffered due to the torture. He was later produced before the Magistrate of Negombo and remanded. The Magistrate ordered a Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) to examine the victim.

CASE NARRATIVE:

According to W.A. Lasantha Pradeep Wijerathna of No. 98, Galahitiyawa, Ganemulla, while he was at Maravila in between 7.30-8pm of 14 August 2010 a group of officers of the Sri Lanka Navy arrested him. Then Navy officers handed him over to the police officers at Maravila Police Station the same day and they in turn handed him over to officers attached to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

Lasantha was brought to the CID headquarters at Colombo and detained in a cell on the fourth floor of the building.

At 8.30am on 15 August Sub Inspector (SI) Sanjeewa of the CID came to the cell where Lasantha was detained and took him out. He was taken to another room and questioned as to whether he had any relationship with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) and what he knew about a ship that was scheduled to go to Canada. He repeatedly denied any connection with the LTTE and told the officers he knew nothing about the ship. When he continued to deny any connection or knowledge SI Sanjeewa started to assault Lasantha. He was repeatedly kicked and struck about the head.

SI Sanjeewa kept a wooden board on the head of Lasantha and started to insert nails to the board using a hammer making enormous pain to the head of Lasantha several times but still he (Lasantha) denied any knowledge on the two allegations of having involvement with LTTE and its ship. Several other CID were present and also joined in the assault but while Lasantha could recognised them if he were to see them again he does not know their names.

Lasantha notice there were several other detainees with him in the CID cells while he was being tortured.

Then on 17 August at around 4.30pm Lasantha was brought out from the cell by Inspector of Police (IP) Paranavithana and other officers of the CID and together with some other detainees brought to the office of the Judicial Medical Officer's (JMO). While they were on their way IP Paranavithana threatened Lasantha and the other detainees that if they revealed any details of the torture they would be further detained with Detention Order (DO) and tortured with the Darma Chakkra method (a method in which the hands and ankles are tied together, a pole is then inserted between them under the knees and the victim is suspended by the pole. The officers then continue to beat the victim whilst he is suspended in this manner. This is common method of torture used by the Sri Lankan police).

As a JMO was not present at the office for examination the officers took them back to the CID. While they were coming back the officers stopped the vehicle at the Elphinston Cinema Hall at Maradana. The officers then told the detainees, including Lasantha, to get out of the vehicle and run fast. It was evident to Lasantha that the officers wanted to make it look as if they were escaping so they could shoot them. However all were handcuffed at that time. Then suddenly IP Paranavithana realised that there was a huge crowd watching and stopped the officers.

After that Lasantha and the others were brought back to the CID offices and question again on similar matters. They also suffered further tortured. Later Lasantha was produced before the Magistrate of Negombo on the suspicion of committing a crime under the provisions of Immigrants and Emigrants Act No. 20 of 1948 and remanded at Remand Prison Negombo.

After being subjecting to continuous torture by the police officers Lasantha suffered several injuries. However, despite the fact that his injuries were severe the officers made no attempt to provide medical attention.

At the very first occasion on 27 August, Lasantha's relatives were able to get an Attorney-at-Law to appear on his behalf. The Attorney informed the Magistrate that Lasantha was in severe pain due to extensive torture and needed to have proper medical treatment. The Magistrate instructed the prison authorities to provide the necessary medical treatment at the Negombo Base Hospital but he was not given medical treatment till 30 August. He was admitted to ward No. 6, bed 14 on 31 August. The JMO finally examined Lasantha on 1 September.

Despite Lasantha's relatives informing the court of the torture perpetrated on Lasantha by the offices of the CID the relevant authorities of the state have not yet initiated any steps to investigate the crimes committed against him. The relatives and Lasantha seek an effective, prompt, impartial and independent investigation unto the crimes committed against him and the prosecution of those who committed them.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

The Asian Human Rights Commission has reported innumerable cases of torture of persons at the hands of the police which is illegal under international and local law. The Asian Human Rights Commission has also observed that the Sri Lankan police use torture as a means of investigation and to force the detainees to confess to or admit to crimes that they have never committed.

Using torture as a tool for investigation has been condemned as a barbaric practice for centuries but it is widely used in Sri Lanka as a systemic practice. The Asian Human Rights Commission has noted and reported hundreds of individual cases in which innocent persons have suffered to get rid of these cases with the prolong delays in court proceedings. The sacred common law principal of 'innocent unless proven guilty' has been accepted even by the Constitution of Sri Lanka. Furthermore the duty of the prosecution to prove cases with credible evidence, sometime using modern scientific evidence, seems not to be practically seen in the administration of the Criminal Justice system of Sri Lanka.

The Constitution of Sri Lanka has guaranteed the right to 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.

Supreme Court of Sri Lanka
In the case of SCFR/ 42/2002, Deshapriya vs. Captain Weerakoon, Commanding Officer, Sri Lanka Navy Ship "Gamunu" and others, as Per Fernando, J.

"In the Forces, command is a sacred trust, and discipline is paramount. He was under a duty to take all reasonable steps to ensure that persons held in custody (like the petitioner) were treated humanely and in accordance with the law. That included monitoring the activities of his subordinates, particularly those who had contact with detainees. The fact that the petitioner was being held in custody under his specific orders made his responsibility somewhat greater,…………

…………. If the petitioner did not receive medical treatment for his injuries, the denial of medical treatment was itself inhuman treatment violative of Article 11, for which the 1 st respondent shares responsibility
".

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 undermining of civilian respect for the law and encouraging impunity.

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)
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 with a minimum term of 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 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 harass and in some occasions getting killed to suppress the justice by revealing the individual cases happened in island wide. Further we have urged the State of Sri Lanka to adopt a law for the protection of witness protection.

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 torturing 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 their powers as state officers. 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 Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of the United Nations on this regard.

To support this appeal please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ________,

SRI LANKA: Criminal Investigation Department officers torture a man then attempt to kill him

Name of the victim: W.A. Lasantha Pradeep Wijerathna of No. 98, Galahitiyawa, Ganemulla

Name of alleged perpetrators:
SI Sanjeewa and officers attached to the Criminal Investigation Department police

Date of the Incident: 14 August 2010
Place of the Incident: Criminal Investigation Department of police

I am writing to you to express my serious concern on the case of W.A. Lasantha Pradeep Wijerathna of No. 98, Galahitiyawa, Ganemulla. Lasantha was arrested by a group of officers of the Sri Lanka Navy who handed him over to the police officers at Maravila Police Station. The same day they in turn handed him over to officers attached to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

Lasantha was brought to the CID headquarters at Colombo and detained in a cell on the fourth floor of the building.

At 8.30am on 15 August Sub Inspector (SI) Sanjeewa of the CID came to the cell where Lasantha was detained and took him out. He was taken to another room and questioned as to whether he had any relationship with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) and what he knew about a ship that was scheduled to go to Canada. He repeatedly denied any connection with the LTTE and told the officers he knew nothing about the ship. When he continued to deny any connection or knowledge SI Sanjeewa started to assault Lasantha. He was repeatedly kicked and struck about the head.

SI Sanjeewa kept a wooden board on the head of Lasantha and started to insert nails to the board using a hammer making enormous pain to the head of Lasantha several times but still he denied any knowledge on the two allegations regarding his involvement with LTTE and its ship. Several other CID were present and also joined in the assault but while Lasantha could recognised them if he were to see them again he does not know their names.

Lasantha notice there were several other detainees with him in the CID cells while he was being tortured.

Then on 17 August at around 4.30pm Lasantha was brought out from the cell by Inspector of Police (IP) Paranavithana and other officers of the CID and together with some other detainees brought to the office of the Judicial Medical Officer's (JMO). While they were on their way IP Paranavithana threatened Lasantha and the other detainees that if they revealed any details of the torture they would be further detained with Detention Orders (DO) and tortured with the Darma Chakkra method (a method in which the hands and ankles are tied together, a pole is then inserted between them under the knees and the victim is suspended by the pole. The officers then continue to beat the victim whilst he is suspended in this manner. This is common method of torture used by the Sri Lankan police).

As a JMO was not present at the office for examination the officers took them back to the CID. While they were coming back the officers stopped the vehicle at the Elphinstant Cinema Hall at Maradana. The officers then told the detainees, including Lasantha, to get out of the vehicle and run fast. It was evident to Lasantha that the officers wanted to make it look as if they were escaping so they could shoot them. However, as they all were handcuffed at that time. Then suddenly IP Paranavithana realised that there was a huge crowd watching and stopped the officers.

After that Lasantha and the others were brought back to the CID offices and question again on similar matters. They also suffered further tortured. Later Lasantha was produced before the Magistrate of Negombo on the suspicion of committing a crime under the provisions of Immigrants and Emigrants Act No. 20 of 1948 and remanded at Remand Prison Negombo.

After being subjecting to continuous torture by the police officers Lasantha suffered several injuries. However, despite the fact that his injuries were severe the officers made no attempt to provide medical attention.

At the very first occasion on 27 August, Lasantha's relatives were able to get an Attorney-at-Law to appear on his behalf. The Attorney informed the Magistrate that Lasantha was in severe pain due to extensive torture and needed to have proper medical treatment. The Magistrate instructed the prison authorities to provide the necessary medical treatment at the Negombo Base Hospital but he was not given medical treatment till 30 August. He was admitted to ward No. 6, bed 14 on 31 August. The JMO finally examined Lasantha on 1 September.

Despite Lasantha's relatives informing the court of the torture perpetrated on Lasantha by the offices of the CID the relevant authorities of the state have not yet initiated any steps to investigate the crimes committed against him. The relatives and Lasantha seek an effective, prompt, impartial and independent investigation unto the crimes committed against him and the prosecution of those who committed them.

I further request your urgent intervention to ensure that the authorities listed below instigate an immediate investigation into the allegations of 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 the state officers. 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
Human Rights Commission
No. 36, Kynsey Road
Colombo 8
SRI LANKA
Tel: +94 11 2 694 925 / 673 806
Fax: +94 11 2 694 924 / 696 470
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-143-2010
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.