SRI LANKA: A 70-year-old man tortured to death by police


Urgent Appeal Case: UA-59-2002-01
ISSUES: Torture,

SRI LANKA: Widespread practice of torture; another case of death in police custody 

– Name of the victim: P. A. Piyadasa of Papiliwela, Veralugampola 
– Perpetrators: Group of policemen from Kirindiwela police station 
– Date of death by torture: Nov. 21, 2002 


P. A. Piyadasa of Papiliwela in Veralugampola was arrested by a group of policemen from the Kirindiwela police station at midnight on Nov. 20, 2002, while he was sleeping in his home. In the early morning of Nov. 21, his body was handed over to the Watupitiwela Base Hospital where he was declared dead. 

The allegation for which he was arrested was that illicit liquor was being sold near his house. He was taken to the illicit liquor sales point where another person had been arrested and assaulted. He was then taken to the Kirindiwela police station and, according to relatives, was further assaulted at the police station. A complaint has been made to the superintendent of the police in the area. 

This case must be seen in the context of other similar deaths in custody, for last week the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) reported another death in custody by the Sri Lankan police. In this case, a man was arrested on allegations of stealing a bunch of bananas worth 300 rupees (US.50) and was allegedly tortured to death by the police and prison officers. 


The officer in charge (OIC) of the Kirindiwela police station, Ranjith Mahimkanda, and six other policemen attached to the station have been transferred pending the completion of investigations into this incident. Following petitions from the public, a special police investigation is being conducting by the deputy inspector general of police (DIG), Pathmasiri Liyanage. The public charges that there were eyewitnesses to the alleged assault on the victim by the police. 

Meanwhile, the funeral of the victim took place on Nov. 24. About 3,000 people who tried to take the coffin into the police station were prevented from doing so by the army, which was called to defuse the tension. The police said a local police curfew was clamped on the police division on the night of Nov. 24. 


Please send your appeals to the prime minister, attorney general and inspector general of police (IGP) of Sri Lanka, expressing your concern at the increasing number of deaths in police custody and your desire for action to reverse this trend. 

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


SAMPLE LETTER (You may use your own words or use the following as a sample) 

Dear Sir 

Re: P. A. Piyadasa of Papiliwela, Veralugampola: 70-year-old man tortured to death by police 

I am writing to express my grave concerns about the increasing number of people dying in police custody in Sri Lanka during criminal investigations. Because of the growing number of deaths in police custody in different parts of the country, it does not appear that the problem is confined to one police station or one group of police officers. Rather, the cause of this pattern of abuse of power by the police appears to reflect a failure of the law enforcement system in the country. 

The death of a 70-year-old man, Mr. P. A. Piyadasa of Papiliwela in Veralugampola in police custody is the latest tragedy to be reported. It comes a week after the death in custody of L. H. Lal who was arrested after being suspected of stealing a bunch of bananas worth 300 rupees (US.50). He was allegedly tortured by the police and prison officers. 

On Oct. 3, 2002, the Asian Legal Resource Centre in Hong Kong released a report revealing cases of extremely cruel types of torture used by the Sri Lankan police during criminal investigations. Though the number of reported cases are increasing, there does not seem to be any action to bring the perpetrators to justice by the Sri Lankan authorities. This is despite Sri Lanka’s obligations under international treaties and under own its Constitution and laws (Act No. 22 of 1994). 

If the State and responsible agencies continue to remain so negligent, many more innocent lives will be lost at the hands of “the protectors of the law”. I urge you to act urgently and decisively to bring the perpetrators to justice and to bring discipline to the police force. I can only make this appeal: PLEASE STOP THIS EPIDEMIC OF TORTURE NOW! 

Thank you for promptly responding to this deadly trend. 

Sincerely yours, 



1. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe 
Cambridge Place 
Colombo 7 
Sri Lanka 
Fax: +94 1 682-905 
E-mail: or 
SALUTATION: Hon. Prime Minister 

2. Hon. Mr. K. C. Kamalasabesan 
Attorney General 
Attorney General’s Department 
Colombo 12 
Fax: +94 1 436-421 
E-mail: or 
SALUTATION: Dear Attorney General 

3. Mr. T. E. Anandrajah 
Inspector General of Police 
New Secretariat 
Colombo 1 
Fax: +94 1 446-174 
SALUTATION: Dear Inspector General of Police

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA-59-2002-01
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Torture,