Is there a tendency for ‘police brutality’ to increase in Sri Lanka?

 - April 21st, 2021 - 

Can a police officer assault a lorry driver after a video of him being brutally assaulted by a police officer in the Pannipitiya area was circulated on social media recently? Many people are concerned about the situation that people in the police force, including suspects, would face if they were attacked in public.

Although it is reported that the lorry driver had assaulted the OIC of the Maharagama Police Traffic Division who was controlling the vehicles on the road and fled, there is a discussion in the society as to whether the police officers have the right to attack the culprits.

“I suspended the police officer involved in the incident and arrested him,” a police spokesman said. But a few weeks before that, a similar incident was reported at the Peliyagoda police station. There too, the police officer who inhumanly assaulted a person was put to work.

Gokarella police have arrested and remanded an A / L student who was hoping to become a Sub Inspector of Police in March on a false complaint that he was involved in the cannabis trade, and his family members allege that he also missed the GCE Advanced Level examination.

A young man who was allegedly tortured by the Hakmana police last January described his experience and said that he was arrested by the police on a false complaint and brutally tortured.

Dulan Dasanayake, a lawyer for the human rights group Right to Life, told the BBC Sinhala Service that a university student had been remanded in custody for several months on drug charges in the Kantale area. However, the forensic report revealed that the drug was not found in his possession and he was acquitted and released within three to four months, said Attorney-at-Law Dulan Dasanayake.

He cited another incident in which Malika Abeykoon, a freelance photographer covering a protest in the Maradana area in Colombo yesterday (April 07), was arrested and allegedly assaulted in police custody.

“Currently there is an increase in police brutality, which is in line with government policies. That ‘war on drugs’, because of that the police got some power without being told. Gave the police little validity about their use of force. That is my opinion, ”

The Sri Lankan Anti-Torture Coalition, which was formed by 27 civil society organizations and civilians with the aim of creating a Sri Lanka free of torture, says that by the end of the first two months of this year, the number of torture reports was as high as 13.

They point out that the 13 incidents are reported as follows;

Gampaha District Peliyagoda Police – 03, Galle District Pitigala Police – 01, Matara District Hakmana Police – 01, Hambantota District Walasmulla Police – 01, Tangalle Police – 01 Kurunegala District Pothuhera Police – 01, Wellawa Police – 01, Kalutara District – Aluthgama Police – 01 , Kosgoda Police – 01, Payagala Police – 01, Polonnaruwa District Aralaganwila Police – 01

Attorney-at-Law Dulan Dasanayake told the BBC Sinhala Service that the Attorney General’s Department had filed 115 indictments in the High Courts as of March 28, 2019, in response to a request made by the Right to Life human rights organization under the Freedom of Information Act. said.

He added that statistics from the Attorney General’s Department show that out of the 115 cases filed so far, 34 have been decided.

Basil Fernando of the Human Rights Council of Asia Why are Sri Lankan police officers torturing suspects? According to two reports, this situation has arisen because the police officers have become the accomplices of certain individuals rather than engaging in criminal investigations and trying to clear the law.

He points out that there are a number of factors that can contribute to this, and that victims are brutally tortured in the hope of gaining personal advantage, such as extortion, money, or promotions.

However, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana told the BBC Sinhala Service that he denies the allegations.

“Arrests are made only when a complaint is lodged with the police. There is no such thing. We deny those allegations. But if such an incident is reported to us, we will investigate it. It could be overuse or overuse of power. We have deliberately stopped torturing. If such incidents continue, we will take action against them, ”said Ajith Rohana.

Legal experts point out that Sri Lanka has had some form of anti-torture laws since 1883, and that this has been done through the Sri Lankan Penal Code, which incorporates criminal law.

Sections 310 to 329 of the Penal Code make it a punishable offense for a person to inflict torture equivalent to torture, and there is no distinction between whether the perpetrator is an ordinary person or a government official.

The Constitution of Sri Lanka, which has been in force since 1978, entitles not only the citizens of this country but all persons to the right to refrain from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under Article 11 of the Constitution.

In particular, Article 126 of the Constitution provides for the possibility of filing a petition in the Supreme Court in the event of a breach or imminent violation of the aforesaid fundamental rights, including the aforementioned rights. According to Article 126, the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.

A strong direct legal framework against torture was enacted in Parliament on November 25, 1994, making torture a criminal offense, and for torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or penalties, which came into force on December 20, 1994. By the Convention against.

The UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1984, Resolution 39/46. It has been open to member states for signing and ratification of the Convention ever since, and entered into force on June 26, 1987.

Sri Lanka ratified the Convention on January 3, 1994, by a memorandum of understanding submitted to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on December 29, 1993. Accordingly, the Convention entered into force in Sri Lanka on February 2, 1994.

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment No. 22 of 1994 was passed by the Government of Sri Lanka on November 25, 1994 to establish the relevant constitutional provisions for the implementation of Sri Lanka’s obligations under this International Convention. Effective December 20, 1994.

The preamble to the Act also clearly states that it is an Act enacted to give effect to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and other related matters.

With the enactment of this Act, the legal status of torture in Sri Lanka has become broader and more direct. Previously, the right to abstain from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by the executive and the administration was enshrined, and the Penal Code also made it possible to criminalize the torture of a person, although not directly. Point out.

They allege that with the enactment of Act No. 22 of 1994, torture and / or any other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment has been made directly a criminal offense.

The Attorney General is responsible for prosecuting suspects who commit offenses under this Act and accordingly the Attorney General has been prosecuting cases in the High Court up to now.

Sub-section (1 (2)) of the first subsection (2 (1)) of this Act makes another person guilty of an offense under this Act. Accordingly, not only has Sri Lanka accepted torture as an offense, but a person who attempts, aids or abets torture in accordance with sub-clause 2 (2) is also guilty.

Section 2 (4) of the Act states that a case must be filed in the High Court and if convicted after a trial, the offender can be imprisoned in one way or another for a term not less than seven years and not more than 10 years and a fine not exceeding Rs. 50,000

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