SRI LANKA: A man was brutally tortured and denied food by a Special Investigation Unit (SIU) officer


Urgent Appeal Case: UA-162-2007
ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest & detention, Police violence, Right to food, Threats and intimidation, Torture,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the inhuman treatment by the police towards a 29-year-old man, Mr. B Sumith Priyantha Fernando, on 26 March 2007. Mr. Fernando was illegally arrested, detained and was subsequently brutally tortured by a police officer, Officer- in Charge (OIC) of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) Nimal Karunaratne, over allegations of false charges. Fernando, father of three children, was detained for four days and was denied food while in custody of the SIU in Katukurunda, Kalutara police division. The SIU is a division of the Police Department supposedly tasked to investigate police wrongdoing, including torture.


On 26 March 2007, several policemen had arrived at the place where Mr. B. Sumith Priyantha Fernando was working. The policemen, who were later discovered as attached to the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) in Katukurunda, Kalutara police division, asked Fernando if his name was ‘Manju’. When Fernando replied that he is known as ‘Suddha’ but his real name is Sumith, the police quickly told him he is the person they are looking for and immediately handcuffed him.

One of the policemen, who was carrying a handgun, immediately forced Fernando towards the motorcycle rickshaw the police are using as service vehicle. He was taken towards the house of Sumith Perera in Kitumithugama, Maggona. But since Perera at the time was not at home, they proceeded to the SIU in Katukurunda. Fernando was taken inside a room and was forced to sit on the floor with his handcuffs on until about 9pm. While in custody, the police repeatedly shouted at him and verbally abused him with foul language.

At around 9pm, Nimal Karunaratne, Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of the SIU, arrived and started questioning Fernando regarding an incident of theft. Karunaratne verbally abused him with extremely foul language. Karunaratne ordered Fernando to stand against the wall at the corner of the room and started brutally beating him with a wooden club. The assault and questioning of Fernando lasted for almost one hour. Fernando suffered severe injuries to his body and had his left toenail damaged causing him unbearable pain. Before leaving the room, Karunaratne instructed Fernando to sleep on the floor. Despite serious injuries and unbearable pain, the policemen did not bother giving him medical attention, food or water.

The following day, March 27, Fernando’s family arrived at the police station to visit him but they were not allowed to see him. The food items they were carrying also never reached him. On that day also, Fernando was forced to sit on the floor with his handcuffs on. At 12noon, Fernando was taken to a storeroom where lunch was served to him two hours later. While eating, although the police shortly removed his handcuffs, they kept his left hand handcuffed to a window. At the time, another person named Amal was also taken inside the room with him. About 7pm, Fernando and Amal were taken to Karunaratne’s room.

While inside the room, Fernando noticed seeing Sumith Perera in another room. It was Perera whom the police had earlier looked for at the time of his arrest. At 9pm, Karunaratne went inside their room and once again severely beat Fernando and Amal separately.

On March 28, Fernando was locked inside a storeroom. At night, Fernando was taken inside Karunaratne’s office room. He allegedly saw Karunaratne and some other policemen having a drinking session inside. Suddenly, Karunaratne received a telephone call. Soon after he left telling his companions he would join them later. On March 29, while inside Karunaratne’s room, the police forced Fernando to make a statement and had him photographed. About 7pm he was taken to the Payagala police station where he was detained until the next day, March 30.

On March 30, at about 4pm, Mr. Fernando and Amal was taken towards the Magistrate’s Court where the police allegedly filed fabricated charges against him. On May 5, Fernando was released on bail after appearing before the court. After his release, Fernando was told by his sister and brother-in-law that Karunaratne had warned them that: “however long it takes he will ensure he [Fernando] is arrested again or else that he will be eliminated”. It was his sister and brother-in-laws who assisted him in securing bail for his temporary release,

Fernando had since been suffering from severe pain and bruises as a result of brutal beatings inflicted on him. He has been taking ayurvedic (indigenous) medicine to treat his injuries. Fernando had already filed a complaint against Karunaratne and his men before the Inspector of Police (IGP), the National Police Commission (NPC) and the Human Rights Commission and the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) of the Kalutara. Fernando is demanding for immediate legal and disciplinary action to be taken against Karunaratne and his men.

Please write to the relevant authorities listed below and urge them to take appropriate legal and disciplinary action against Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Nimal Karunaratne of the Special Investigation Unit. An investigation must be conducted into Fernando’s allegations and the charges filed against him withdrawn if there is insufficient proof. Appropriate compensation must also be given to him and his security and safety must be guaranteed to him as well.

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Dear __________,

SRI LANKA: A man brutally tortured and denied food by a Special Investigation Unit (SIU) officer

Name of victim: Mr. Barandulage Sumith Priyantha Fernando, 29 years old and a resident of Kumara Kanda (Hill), Maggona. He had three children.
Name of alleged perpetrators:
1. Nimal Karunaratne, Officer in Charge (OIC), of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU), Katukurunda, Kalutara police division
2. Several policemen attached to the same SIU unit
Place of incident: Inside the SIU office
Date of incident: From 26 to 30 March 2007

I am writing to you to express my grave concern at the plight of Mr. Barandulage Sumith Priyantha, a 29-year-old man, allegedly brutally tortured by Nimal Karunaratne, Officer-in-Charge of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) and his men, all attached to the Katukurunda, Kalutara police division.

I have learned that on 26 March 2007, Fernando was arrested from his workplace and taken to the SIU in Katukurunda, Kalutara police division. The police had his hands handcuffed without properly explaining to him why he is being arrested. One policeman forced him into a motorcycle rickshaw.  Upon arrival at the SIU station, they had him locked inside a room with handcuffs on.

At 9pm that day, Karunaratne arrived and started questioning Fernando about an incident of theft. Soon after, Karunaratne started beating him while being cornered at the wall inside the room with a wooden club. Karunaratne’s questioning and beating allegedly lasted for almost one hour. Fernando suffered severe injuries to his body, had his left toenail damaged and had experienced an unbearable pain. Despite his suffering, no medical attention, food or water was given to him.

The police likewise did not allow Fernando’s family to visit him; thus the food they were carrying for him did not reach him. At around 9pm, Karunaratne resumed brutally beating Fernando, and another person name Amal whom the officer had just arrested. On the evening of March 29, while in detention, the police forced Fernando to make a statement and took a photograph of him. He was only released on May 5 after his relatives filed a petition for bail. After his release, however, Fernando had received information through his relatives that Karunaratne would want to re-arrest or eliminate him.

I am extremely shocked by the involvement of officer Karunaratne and his men in allegedly committing acts of torture. As you are aware, the SIU police department, according to their mandate, is supposed to investigate allegation of torture against the police force. The SIU should not engage in acts of torture themselves.

This case illustrates the absence of a credible mechanism of criminal justice inquiry in Sri Lanka. Torture continuously to be an integral part of criminal investigation. This case also demonstrates the difficulty of prosecuting perpetrators of torture and providing remedies to victims.

I therefore urge you to ensure that a credible and immediate investigation is conducted into the victim’s allegations against the policemen involved. There should be an independent inquiry and the policemen found to have abused their authority should be prosecuted under the CAT Act (Act No 22 of 1994). Fernando and his family must also be given protection to prevent possible harassment by the police involved. Adequate compensation must also be paid to him.

I trust that you will take immediate action in this case.

Yours truly,



1. Mr. Victor Perera
Inspector General of Police 
New Secretariat 
Colombo 1
Fax: +94 11 2 440440/327877

2. Mr. C.R. De Silva 
Attorney General 
Attorney General’s Department 
Colombo 12 
Fax: +94 11 2 436421

3. Secretary
National Police Commission
3rd Floor, Rotunda Towers,
109 Galle Road
Colombo 03
Tel: +94 11 2 395310 
Fax: +94 11 2 395867

4. Secretary
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka
No. 36, Kynsey Road 
Colombo 8 
Tel: +94 11 2 694 925 / 673 806 
Fax: +94 11 2 694 924 / 696 470 

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA-162-2007
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Arbitrary arrest & detention, Police violence, Right to food, Threats and intimidation, Torture,