UPDATE (Sri Lanka): High-level police attack on NHRC


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-03-2002
ISSUES: Police violence,

Dear Friends 

For your information, following is a letter AHRC has written to the National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, to urge them to take action against Assistant Superintendent of Police Kodithuwakku (himself the subject of a separate inquiry for allegedly beating a person to death in custody) for interfering with an official inquiry into three other police officers. You may also wish to write to encourage the NHRC to ensure that the ASP is investigated over these actions to enable people to have faith in the independence and effectiveness of the Commission. The original appeal UA-05-2002 is available at our website www.ahrchk.net 

Thank you, 

Urgent Appeals Desk 
Asian Human Rights Commission 


Mr. Fais Musthapa 
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka 
No. 50, Dr. N W Perera Mawatha 
Borella, Colombo 8 
FAX: +941 694 924 

Re. Obstruction to Inquiry and Disrespectful Behavior towards the National Human Rights Commission by Assistant Superintendent of Police Ranmal Kodithuwakku 

8th February, 2002 

Dear Mr. Musthapha 

This urgent correspondence is regarding a high level police attack on the National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka on 22 January, 2002. 

On that day, Mr. Nimal Punchihewa, an inquiring officer of the Sri Lankan National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), was conducting an inquiry into a complaint of illegal arrest against three policemen of the rank ‘Officers in Charge of Police’ (OICs). The Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Ranmal Kodituwakku, disrupted the inquiry, used abusive language against the inquiring officer and walked away with the three police officers facing the inquiry. For details, kindly refer to AHRC Urgent Appeal UA-05-2002, available online at: http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/update/viewnews.cgi?newsid1012299671,69887, 

This matter has received publicity through the local press as well as the international media. However, no action has yet been taken against the police officer by either the government or the National Human Rights Commission. 

Meanwhile, the ASP concerned was quoted in a Sunday newspaper trying to put the blame on the inquiring officer concerned: 

He stated that Kodituwakku goes on to say that after giving a description of what their duties are as police officers he informed Punchihewa that as an inquiring officer he had no authority to decide if a criminal case entertained at the Special Crimes Investigation Bureau was of a civil nature or not. Kodituwakku then states that Punchihewa began shivering in a fit of rage and started shouting at him stating that he was out of line to tell him anything like that and that ¡¥I should know I am before the Commission on Human Rights.¡¦ 

Kodituwakku had also brought up the issue of rank, saying he is a high ranking officer and Punchihewa had no business to speak to him in that manner. Kodituwakku has alleged that Punchihewa also referred to his father, the IGP, in a manner that was insulting, unprofessional and biased. 

In the circumstances, what is at stake is the very authority of the commission itself and the confidence ordinary citizens have in the Commission. The following acts are particularly of concern: 
?A police officer challenges the Commissions¡¦ authority; 
?He further disrupts the proceedings and convinces the other officers to walk away with him; 
?He abuses other staff of the Commission; 
?He tries to start a police inquiry against the inquiry officer; 
?He tries to intimidate the inquiring officer; and 
?He makes public statements falsely accusing the inquiring officer concerned. 

If such gross abuses do not lead to serious action, the future of the NHRC will be very bleak. 

We urge the Commission to take adequate action to demonstrate its authority as well as assure the people that it is able to provide protection for those who make complaints to and its inquiring officers. The alleged statement by the ASP implying that senior police officers should not be questioned by civil authorities is very worrying. It indicates the perception of police that they are somewhat superior people and that civilians with any level of authority have no right to conduct inquiries against police. 

We urge that quick and serious action be taken against this disturbing attack on the Commission. We also urge the Commission to assure the public that such action is being taken in order to maintain public confidence in the institution pending the further inquiries. 

Yours sincerely 

Basil Fernando 
Executive Director

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-03-2002
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Police violence,