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SRI LANKA: Kandy ASP and Nuwara Eliya Headquarters Police Station refuse to investigate abduction of a teenage girl

September 12, 2011

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION-URGENT APPEAL PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-164-2011

 

12 September 2011
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SRI LANKA: Kandy ASP and Nuwara Eliya Headquarters Police Station refuse to investigate abduction of a teenage girl

ISSUES: Police inaction; denial of justice; women's rights; impunity; rule of law
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that the 19-year-old daughter of Mr. R.J.K. Niel and his wife Ms. Ajantha Edirisinghe of No: 13, Vijithapura, Magastota, Nuwara Eliya has been abducted by a person on 3 September 2011. When his daughter went missing he made a complaint to the Nuwara Eliya Headquarters Police Station and to the Balagolla Police Station. The first station accepted and recorded the complaint but failed to conduct any investigation. The second station refused to accept the complaint. Mr. Niel then made a complaint to the Assistant Superintendent of Police in Kandy against the inaction of the both police stations. Even then the police refused to investigate the incident on the basis that there were not enough police officers to attend to the matter due to the International Cricket Tournament in Pallekalle Stadium. To-date the parents are seeking the whereabouts of their daughter and waiting to see that justice is done against all the perpetrators. There have been innumerable instances where the Sri Lankan police have failed to carry out their sworn duties and this case is a glaring example as Mr. Niel has been able to identify the suspect, provide details as to his vehicle registration and his place of residence.

CASE NARRATIVE:

According to the information received by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Mr. R.J.K. Niel and his wife Ms. Ajantha Edirisinghe of No: 13, Vijithapura, Magastota, Nuwara Eliya are married and the parents of four children, three daughters and a son.

The eldest daughter, Malathi (not her real name) was a student of Gamini Maha Vidyalaya, Nuwara Eliya. Mr. Niel is working at the Nuwara-Eliya Municipal Council. Malathi was preparing for her university entrance exam (General Certificate Exam- Advance Level) in the science stream. She is an intelligent student and followed tuition classes during the weekend in Kandy. When she went to Kandy for tuition she used to stay with her aunt in Mahawatte – Kundasale at No: 18/3, Mahawatte, Keppetipola Watte.

Mr. Niel learned from his daughter that a boy by the name of Kamal, a three-wheeler driver was interested in his daughter and had approached her. However, she did not consent to a relationship explaining that that she was a student. Mr. Niel further learned that the license number of Kamal's three-wheeler is WP QA 7194.

On the 3 September 2011 his daughter went to her school to sit for her final paper (Sinhala General Paper) and did not return home. Around 2.20 pm Mr. Niel received a telephone call from an unknown person who identified himself as 'Kamal' and said that Malathi was with him, and, if possible to save her within an hour. This message implied that the young lady was in danger.

Mr. Niel immediately went to the Nuwara Eliya Headquarters Police Station, made a complaint and informed the incident to the officers on duty. The officers recorded the complaint with the reference No: W CIB 86/32. The police officers then promised him that they were informing the matter to the Balagolla Police Station to get further assistance to continue the investigation.

Mr. Niel wanted prompt and urgent intervention from the police officers as he provided all the available details of the suspect and all necessary clues to trace him. Further he explained the danger that his child faced at the hands of the suspect and pleaded with the officers to take immediate action to recover his beloved child.

The following day, 4 September 2011 Mr. Niel himself went to Kamal's house in Mahawatte, Kundasale in search of his daughter and Kamal's father, who was under the influence of liquor, suddenly assaulted him.

The next day, 5 September 2011 Mr. Niel then went to the Balagolla Police Station to make a further complaint but the police officers refused to accept it and told him that he should go to the Nuwara Eliya Police Station again.

Mr. Niel then made a complaint to the office of the Assistance Superintendent of Police (ASP) of Kandy on 9 September regarding the inaction of the police officers attached to the Headquarters Police Station of Nuwara Eliya and the illegal action of the officers of the Balagolla Police Station.

The officers of the ASP's office again directed him to the Balogolla Police Station. However, the officers at that station told him that because of the cricket match between Sri Lanka and Australia being played in the Pallekelle International Stadium there were no police officers available to attend to this.

The officers clearly gave more importance to a cricket match than they did the safety of a young innocent girl.

At the time of writing still Mr. Niel and his wife do not know where their child is. Neither the ASP of Kandy nor have the Nuwara Eliya Headquarters Police Station and the Balagolla Police Station have provided any details regarding the progress of their investigation on the complaint he made. Indeed, it is doubtful that any investigation into the abduction of this girl has been initiated. Mr. Niel states that the police officers are intentionally ignoring their legally bound due duty and that his and his wife's fundamental rights to have the equal protection of the law have been violated by these police officers. He and his wife want their daughter returned safely and justice provided for the agonies they have suffered.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has reported innumerable cases of the victims of crimes whose cases have been never accepted and not investigated. In many of these cases victims have face enormous harassment; on several some occasions the witnesses and the victims have been killed by the perpetrators. The AHRC has continuously urged the state of Sri Lanka on the necessity of adopting a witness protection law and implementing a successful witness protection mechanism to verify the smooth running of the rule of law system.

The state of Sri Lanka is bound to implement the legal provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as it has signed and ratified the convention. Nevertheless the lack of protection offered to those who are willing to take cases against criminals, abusive police officers and state authorities, means that the law is under-utilised continues to be employed as a tool by the police to harass people. This not only takes a long-term toll on the victims and their families, but on society as a whole, by undermining of civilian respect for the law and encouraging impunity.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please send a letter to the authorities listed below expressing your concern about this case and requesting an immediate investigation into the case abduction. The criminals as well as the police officers who are having lethargic approach to investigate the crimes must also try before the court of law for breaching the laws of the country and also should be subjected to internal investigations for the breach of the department orders as issued by the police department.

Please note that the AHRC has also written a separate letter to the Special Rapporteur on violence against women on this regard.

To support this appeal please click here:  

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ________,

SRI LANKA: Kandy ASP and Nuwara Eliya Headquarters Police Station refuse to investigate abduction of a teenage girl

Name of the victim: Ms. Shanathi, daughter of Mr. R.J.K. Niel and his wife Ms. Ajantha Edirisinghe of No: 13, Vijithapura, Magastota, Nuwara Eliya
Alleged perpetrators:
1. Mr. Kamal, a three-wheeler driver
2. Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) attached to Kandy
3. Police officers attached to the Nuwara Eliya Headquarters Police Station
4. Police officers attached to the Balagolla Police Station
Date of incident: 3 September 2011
Place of incident: Nuwara Eliya Police Division

I am writing to express my serious concern over the case of Ms. Malathi, daughter of Mr. R.J.K. Niel and his wife Ms. Ajantha Edirisinghe of No: 13, Vijithapura, Magastota, Nuwara Eliya are married and the parents of four children, three daughters and a son.

The eldest daughter, Malathi (not her real name) was a student of Gamini Maha Vidyalaya, Nuwara Eliya. Mr. Niel is working at the Nuwara-Eliya Municipal Council. Malathi was preparing for her university entrance exam (General Certificate Exam- Advance Level) in the science stream. She is an intelligent student and followed tuition classes during the weekend in Kandy. When she went to Kandy for tuition she used to stay with her aunt in Mahawatte – Kundasale at No: 18/3, Mahawatte, Keppetipola Watte.

Mr. Niel learned from his daughter that a boy by the name of Kamal, a three-wheeler driver was interested in his daughter and had approached her. However, she did not consent to a relationship explaining that that she was a student. Mr. Niel further learned that the license number of Kamal's three-wheeler is WP QA 7194.

On the 3 September 2011 his daughter went to her school to sit for her final paper (Sinhala General Paper) and did not return home. Around 2.20 pm Mr. Niel received a telephone call from an unknown person who identified himself as 'Kamal' and said that Malathi was with him, and, if possible to save her within an hour. This message implied that the young lady was in danger.

Mr. Niel immediately went to the Nuwara Eliya Headquarters Police Station, made a complaint and informed the incident to the officers on duty. The officers recorded the complaint with the reference No: W CIB 86/32. The police officers then promised him that they were informing the matter to the Balagolla Police Station to get further assistance to continue the investigation.

Mr. Niel wanted prompt and urgent intervention from the police officers as he provided all the available details of the suspect and all necessary clues to trace him. Further he explained the danger that his child faced at the hands of the suspect and pleaded with the officers to take immediate action to recover his beloved child.

The following day, 4 September 2011 Mr. Niel himself went to Kamal's house in Mahawatte, Kundasale in search of his daughter and Kamal's father, who was under the influence of liquor, suddenly assaulted him.

The next day, 5 September 2011 Mr. Niel then went to the Balagolla Police Station to make a further complaint but the police officers refused to accept it and told him that he should go to the Nuwara Eliya Police Station again.

Mr. Niel then made a complaint to the office of the Assistance Superintendent of Police (ASP) of Kandy on 9 September regarding the inaction of the police officers attached to the Headquarters Police Station of Nuwara Eliya and the illegal action of the officers of the Balagolla Police Station.

The officers of the ASP's office again directed him to the Balogolla Police Station. However, the officers at that station told him that because of the cricket match between Sri Lanka and Australia being played in the Pallekelle International Stadium there were no police officers available to attend to this.

The officers clearly gave more importance to a cricket match than they did the safety of a young innocent girl.

At the time of writing still Mr. Niel and his wife do not know where their child is. Neither the ASP of Kandy nor have the Nuwara Eliya Headquarters Police Station and the Balagolla Police Station have provided any details regarding the progress of their investigation on the complaint he made. Indeed, it is doubtful that any investigation into the abduction of this girl has been initiated. Mr. Niel states that the police officers are intentionally ignoring their legally bound due duty and that his and his wife's fundamental rights to have the equal protection of the law have been violated by these police officers. He and his wife want their daughter returned safely and justice provided for the agonies they have suffered.

I request your urgent intervention to ensure that the authorities listed below instigate an immediate investigation into the abduction of this teenage girl. She must be returned safely to her parents and the officers who ignored their sworn duties must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. N K Illangakoon
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-164-2011
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.