UPDATE (SRI LANKA): Vicious cases of torture by police but no action and punishment


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-33-2002
ISSUES: Police violence, Torture,

Dear Friends, 

Regarding our previous urgent appeal on the torture case of Mr. Lalith Rajapakse (Re: UA-18/2002, http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2002/240/), we are forwarding you a copy of a letter written by AHRC to the Minster of Interior of Sri Lanka, Mr. John Amaratunga on the failure to punish law enforcement officers who engage in torture, and other cruel and inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment, though Sri Lakan law provide a mandatory period of 7 years for imprisonment for such offences. The disciplinary procedure for the police also provide for dealing of breaches of discipline. However, these things are mostly ignored. 

The recent cases reported in our urgent appeal network shows that impunity has resulted in loss of control of officers who act in most brutal manner. We urge you to write to Prime Minster and Minster of Interior on this matter. 

Thank you. 

Urgent Appeals Desk 
Asian Human Rights Commission 


June 3, 2002 

Mr. John Amaratunga 
Minister of Interior 
Ministry of Interior 
Sri Lanka 
Telephone: (94) 1/430-860 
Fax: (94) 1/387-526 

Dear Minister Amaratunga, 

Re: Reports of Criminals in Sri Lankan Police Stations Working as Police Officers 

In Sri Lanka, torture and other cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment is a serious crime with a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment for seven years through the prescriptions of Act No. 22 of 1994. Yet there are hundreds of people accused of this crime functioning as police officers of various ranks. The people against whom declarations regarding the commission of torture have been made by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka itself are very many. Almost every month more people are added to these lists. However, these people continue to function as law enforcement officers, ignoring the law of the land mentioned above, all disciplinary procedures and Sri Lanka¡¯s international obligations as a signatory to several covenants and conventions. 

In just the month of May 2002 itself, we have learned of several gruesome stories of torture. 

The case of Lalith Rajapakse, for example, who suffered brutal torture at the hands of the police in the Kandana police station is unbelievable and shocking. He remained unconscious for more than 15 days after he had been sent to the hospital from the Kandana police station. His condition has been described as traumatic encephalitis due to assault. He is recovering very slowly and will continue to suffer all his life. The more brutal aspect of this case is that, while this young man was undergoing such suffering, the officers who allegedly caused these injuries fabricated and filed three cases against him in the magistrate¡¯s court in Wattala. All of this violence is allowed to happen in a police station that is supposed to protect the rights of people and provide security. There are similar stories about the conditions in France before the French Revolution. A novel about Sri Lanka by Leonard Woolf, Village in the Jungle, also describes this type of cruelty, and it is unfortunately continuing into the 21st century as well. In this case though, police officers have added something new to past episodes: they have obtained an order to remand the torture victim, who was in an unconscious condition, without even producing the victim in court! When the magistrate discovered this situation almost one month later, he vacated the order as an order that had been illegally obtained. After all of this, the officers still continue to wear uniforms and function as police officers! 

Lalith Rajapakse¡¯s case, however, is not an exception as is shown by the case of Gresha de Silva. In this case, the victim was hung and tortured by several officers in the Habaraduwa police station. The victim has now lost the use of both hands, and the medical opinion is that this loss will be permanent. 

Then there is the case of W. M. Ariyathilaka who was killed in the China Bay police station. The police tried to make it appear though that the victim had committed suicide. However, the medical opinion clearly is that the victim had been strangled. Finger marks were present, and the medical officer recorded external and internal injuries. 

In addition, there is a case from Wariapola, the case of Nanditha Sriyalatha who was sexually abused and tortured in the Wariapola police station while she was detained at the police station for more than three days. Her father has lodged a complaint. 

These are just a few cases, which tragically indicate that a state of terror exists in police stations in spite of the enactment of Act No. 22 of 1994. 

The illegal acts that several officers attached to the Kandana police station have done in the case of Lalith Rajapakse illustrate the wrongs involved in these other cases. These wrongs are listed below. 

(1) Police entered a house without a warrant. 

(2) The police arrested an innocent man. 

(3) The police used brutal torture, a serious crime under Act No. 22 of 1994. 

(4) The unconscious body of the victim was left in a police cell without any attempt to take him to a hospital for about 12 hours. It was only after a local member of Parliament intervened at about 11 a.m. on April 20 that the unconscious body was taken to a hospital. Thus, from the night of April 19 to about noon on April 20, the unconscious body of the victim remained in the police cell of the Kandana police station unattended. 

(5) In the hours following the use of torture on the victim, the police officers fabricated a story to explain the arrest and how the victim was injured by the use of minimum force. They fabricated three reports. Two were preliminary reports already existing in the court, i.e., complaints of two robberies in which no one has been identified as the perpetrators. The police introduced the victim as the perpetrator without any evidence at all to implicate him. (In fact, when contacted by the family of the victim, the complainant of these two cases has categorically stated that they do not in way suspect the victim as the one responsible for their losses.) A third report was a direct fabrication in the statements of the police officers that the victim resisted arrest by four police officers and that they thus used minimum force. They introduced a knife taken from their police station collection as the knife that the victim tried to use on the four policemen. 

(6) Several hours after the victim was hospitalised the police officers took their fabricated reports to an acting magistrate and told him that a very dangerous criminal had been arrested and in this way obtained an order to pass the victim to remand custody without taking the magistrate to see the victim. Had the acting magistrate been informed that the victim was in an unconscious condition, he would have wanted to see the victim and would have recorded the patient¡¯s condition. Thus, a number of serious wrongs were committed:
a) Applied for and obtained an illegal order for detention on April 20 without producing the suspect before the magistrate (on May 16, 2002, when the magistrate was made aware of this fact by lawyers representing the suspect, he nullified and vacated the order made on April 20); 
b) Placed completely false information before the court; 
c) Filed three fabricated cases in court; 
d) Caused the illegal detention of the suspect from April 20 to May 17, 2002. 

(7) From April 20 to May 17, several additional reports seeking further detention were filed. 

(8) On May 17, 2002, the police continued making fabricated stories by producing a knife as the one that the suspect tried to use and which justified the use of minimum force. 

(9) On the same day, a submission made by the officer in charge (OIC) of the police station to the magistrate continued providing completely false information to the court, offering the fabricated stories as the truth. The information included a false story about the medical information pertaining to the suspect, which the OIC claimed was based on discussions with the doctors. The OIC¡¯s facts were the very opposite of what was in the medical reports submitted to the court, however. The record of the OIC¡¯s statement exists in the case records in the magistrate¡¯s court. 

(10) At no stage did the police officers concerned, including the OIC, show any remorse about the heinous crime of torture, the false information provided to the court and the fabrication of cases. 

(11) These officers are still continuing to work at the same police station, and no action has been taken against them. The actions that should have been taken are: 
a) Arrest of the officers for offences under Act No. 22 of 1994 and the filing of charges in a high court; 
b) A criminal investigation into attempted murder of the victim; 
c) Criminal action for providing false information and misleading the court to actions that the court itself later vacated as they had been obtained illegally; 
d) An investigation into the fabrication of cases; 

The strongest evidence exists for taking such actions. This evidence includes the following:

(1) In case reports B/3120/02, B/3060/02 and B3121/02, the police officers admitted making the arrest; 

(2) The police admitted the use of force, which police claim to be minimum force; 

(3) The police reported to the court that it is from their custody that the victim was sent to the hospital; 

(4) The medical report has already been filed in court and included in the case record indicating the serious condition of the victim; 

(5) The magistrate has ordered the original order made on April 20 to be vacated as it has been obtained illegally. 

This is in addition to the evidence of the witnesses. 

We urge you to make provisions for speedy criminal and disciplinary inquiries into these cases and to clean the police of criminals. The country is clearly facing a breakdown of law and order. Even in cases where children are kidnapped, people do not trust the police now to be of any help to them. At the end of May, the parents of a kidnapped child paid Rs. 2.5 million (US,294) to kidnappers to save their child instead of relying on the police. This is no surprise when criminals are allowed to function as police officers. 

It is time to face this fact: if there is to be any change of this situation, criminal actions under Act No. 22 of 1994 and immediate disciplinary actions are a dire need. 

Thank you for urgently considering this important matter. 




Please send letters to the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior of Sri Lanka to urge them to take an immediate investigation and to punish law enforcement officers who engage in this matter. Please enclose above letter to the Minister of interior 



Re: Cases of torture of Lalith Rajapaske, Gresha De Silva, W. M. Ariyathilaka and Nanditha Sriyalatha of Wariapola. 

I am shocked and surprised that no action has yet been taken on these serious acts of torture, despite the law against law contained in the Act No 22 of 1994 and the Sri Lanka¡¯s obligations under the international covenants and conventions. 

I urge you to take urgent and serious actions on these cases and to bring such crimes to end. Therefore, ordinary people in Sri Lanka can live in peace and believe in justice and rule of law. 

For your action, I am enclosing you the letter to the Minster of Interior, John Amaratunga written by AHRC. 

Thank you. 

Sincerely yours, 



1. Honourable Prime Minister 
Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe 
Cambridge Place 
Colombo 7 
Sri Lanka 
Fax: 941 682-905 

2. Mr. John Amaratunga 
Minister of Interior 
Ministry of Interior 
Sri Lanka 
Tel: 941 430-860 
Fax: 941 387-526

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-33-2002
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Police violence, Torture,