SRI LANKA: Yet another custodial death in Ratgama police


Urgent Appeal Case: UA-240-2007
ISSUES: Death in custody, Judicial system, Rule of law, Torture,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) deeply regrets to inform you of yet another death of a man, Thadallage Chamil Weerasena (29), in custody of the Ratgama police following his arrest on 21 July 2007. Before he died, he told one of his friends that the police had mercilessly beaten him and shown his to her his injuries. His death was suspicious but the report signed by the Magistrate Galle concluded he died of hanging. No fresh investigation was conducted regarding questions to the cause of death.


At around 5am on 21 July 2007, an anonymous caller informed Thadallage Chamil Weerasena’s mother, Kande Gamis Hamy, that her son has been taken in by the Ratgama police. The phone number recorded was 091 22 67222. But when Hamy redialed the said number, the person who answered it denied calling and hang up.

At 8am Hamy went to the Ratgama police station. She saw her son detained inside the police cell. When she tried to go near him a female constable and another officer chased her away. Her son, however, signaled to his mother by his hands that he needed a shirt.

Then Hamy went home to get a sarong, a shirt and cooked a lunch packet for his son. She asked one of the victim’s friends, Kosma Nandaseeli, to supposedly give those to him. The Reserve officer allowed Nandaseeli to visit the victim, but did not allow her to give him food and shirt she was carrying for him but only sarong. At this time the victim told her that the police had assaulted him mercilessly. He had shown her the marks he sustained from the assault.

When the victim’s elder brother, Thadallage Suriyasena, went to visit him at around 2pm and 4pm, the police did not allow him. Later that night, at about 11:20pm two police officers from the Ratgama police came to the victim’s house in a jeep and took his father, Thadallage Tyman, to the police station.

The victim’s youngest brother, Thadallage Jayantha, arrived shortly informing his mother that his brother had already died. Upon hearing the news, Hamy and her elder son immediately rushed to the police station. There they saw the victim’s dead body still inside the cell. It was covered with a sarong given to him by his mother. Hamy said her son’s trouser was tied to prison cell’s door as high as her height.

When she started crying loudly, the Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of the said police station instead threatened to put her inside the cell if she doesn’t stop.

At about on July 22, when Hamy went to the police station, she noticed that her son’s trouser, which was tied about as high as her the previous day, was already at the time tied in a place even higher than it was. At about 9am, a doctor came and took some photographs. At about 9:30am the Magistrate came as well. While they are conducting inquiry, Hamy told them about what she noticed and told them that her son’s death was suspicious. Hamy however was not aware whether the doctor and Magistrate had recorded her statements. Thereafter the body was taken to Karapitiya.

Hamy has seen her son’s dead body from the police’s prison cell until it was taken to the Karapitiya hospital. She noticed injuries of assault on the back, chest and face. She had also seen blood on the victim’s head. Before it was taken to the hospital, bloodstains were also seen at the detention cell. But the when the findings came out, a letter signed by the additional Magistrate Galle indicated the victim died of hanging.

No further investigations however were conducted to look into Hamy’s observation regarding the death of her son and the confession the victim had given to a friend who had spoke to him before his death.  It was only on July 27 that the Additional Magistrate Galle had taken statement from Hamy and her husband.

There are witnesses that could give testimonies to the police regarding the death of the victim but the police did not include them. For instance, Kosma Nandaseeli was able to speak with him before his death.

Three years ago, the Ratgama Police had filed false charges against Thadallage Chamil Weerasena for alleged possession of illegal drugs. He pleaded not guilty and the case remains in progress in court at the time of his death.

When the case was heard in June this year, he was not able to attend. His failure to attend the said hearing however has resulted to the issuance of an arrest warrant against him by the court. The police later went to his house three or four times looking for him but he was not there. But there are eye witnesses who said one Sew, who is alleged to have connections with the Ratgama police, caught him and turn him over instead to the police at about 9:30pm on July 20.


This is not the first time where arrested persons by the Ratgama police died and brutally tortured while in their custody following arrest.

In September 2003, a 16-year-old boy, Hikkaduwa Liyanage Sandun Kumara, was also arrested over false charges and was subsequently tortured. He was arrested over allegations he stole an item knew nothing about. The police kicked his legs, dropped him on to his back and trampled him by his shoes. They also hang him up to a tree using his trousers waistband before dropping him to the ground. For further details please read: UP-67-2003.

In 27 May 2005, victim Kosma Sumansiri died days after he was taken to a hospital apparently due to the serious injuries he had suffered as a result of brutal beatings by the police. At the time he was arrested together with his three colleagues, he was in good physical condition until he became seriously ill and later died while being treated. For details please read: UA-111-2005.

In 16 February 2006, victims D. Indika Wasantha and his wife, Kumudini Malkanthi, who was eight-month pregnant at the time, were also arrested and subsequently brutally beaten by the same police unit. The woman suffered serious injuries threatening the progress of her pregnancy at the time. The couple was arrested following the husband’s refusal to lend their vehicle to the police. For details please see: UA-085-2006.

Please write letters to the concerned agencies requesting for a fresh inquiry into the suspicious death of Thadallage Chamil Weerasena. The victim’s family and witnesses must be included in the investigation to ensure its credibility. Immediate sanctions must also be imposed against the policemen involved in this case.

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Dear _________,

SRI LANKA: Yet another custodial death in Ratgama police

Name of the victim: Thadallage Chamil Weerasena (29), a fisherman, resident of No. 25, Katupolwatte, Panwila, Ratgama 
Alleged perpetrators: Police officers at the Ratgama police 
Date of incident: from 20 to 22 July 2007
Place of death: Ratgama police station, Galle Dist. I, Galle Division, Southern Range

I am appalled to learn that yet another man, Thadallage Chamil Weerasena, died while in custody of the Ratgama police. I have learned that on 20 July 2007, Weerasena was taken to the same police station but died in suspicious circumstances on July 21.

While in detention his mother, Kande Gamis Hamy, and his family members tried to visit him but the policemen did not allow them. As a result, the victim’s family has not been able to assist the victim and provide him of his needs. Instead, Hamy was chased away by a female police constable and other policemen when she arrived at the police station purposely to visit her son. Only after the victim died did the police allowed them to enter the police station.

I have learned however that prior to the victim’s death, one of his friends, Kosma Nandaseeli, was able to speak with the victim on July 21. It was her whom the victim had confessed that the policemen had mercilessly beaten him. He also shown to her the injuries he suffered. The policemen though did not allow her to give him food and shirt she was carrying at that time, only a sarong. It was the last time where the victim had spoken to his ordeal.

I have learned on July 21 evening, the police went to the house of the victim’s parents informing them of his death. The victim’s family later raised questions regarding the suspicious death of the victim’s death, but no credible investigation was thus far conducted into their concerns. The police investigating the case also did not list the names of the family members and witnesses who give testimonies in finding the real cause of the victim’s death.

I am deeply concerned of the lack of further investigation to look into the circumstances questioning the findings that the victim hanged himself.

Firstly, the testimonies by the victim’s family were not duly considered when the said report was released. It is reported that there are serious doubts over the evidences at the detention center where the body was found, in particular the position of the trouser where the victim is supposed to have hang himself. I am disappointed with the absence of fresh investigation in this matter.

Secondly, prior to the victim’s death, he was able to confess to a friend that he had been brutally beaten by the police. The victim’s relatives likewise noticed injuries into the victim’s dead body from police station where it was taken until it was taken to the hospital for examination. It has blood on the head and his body had injuries; thereby raising serious doubts over the theory of suicide.

I therefore urge you to ensure that a fresh and credible investigation in conducted into this case. The victim’s family and witnesses must be included in the process of their investigation. The policemen involved must be removed from the inquiry and immediate sanctions must be imposed upon them to ensure the credibility and independence of its findings. Appropriate compensation must also be afforded to the victim’s family without delay.

Yours sincerely,



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
No. 36, Kynsey Road
Colombo 8
Tel: +94 11 2 694 925 / 673 806
Fax: +94 11 2 694 924 / 696 470

5. Prof. Manfred Nowak
Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture
Attn: Safir Syed
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9230

6. Professor Philip Alston
Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions
Attn: Lydie Ventre
Room 3-016
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9155

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA-240-2007
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Death in custody, Judicial system, Rule of law, Torture,