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Civil Society Groups Demand Removal of Acting IGP Deshabandu Tennakoon Over Torture Allegations

In a joint statement released today, a coalition of citizens, civil society organizations (CSOs), and women’s groups expressed deep concern and condemnation over the appointment and continued tenure of Deshabandu Tennakoon as the Acting Inspector General of the Police (IGP) in Sri Lanka. The statement comes two weeks after a Supreme Court judgment on December 14, 2023, held Tennakoon personally responsible for torture, violating constitutional rights and called for necessary disciplinary action.

The Supreme Court found Tennakoon, along with subordinate police officers, culpable for torture, both through commission and omission, during his tenure as the Senior Police officer in charge. Additionally, he was held guilty of violating constitutional rights, including equal protection of the law and the unlawful detention of a person without proper legal procedures.

The statement emphasizes that such serious human rights violations should disqualify any individual from holding public office. The signatories, including prominent individuals and organizations in Sri Lanka, call for immediate action by the President and the government to ensure Tennakoon is removed from his position as Acting IGP until disciplinary proceedings are concluded by the Police Commission.

The coalition argues that law enforcement agencies must uphold the Rule of Law and fundamental rights as guaranteed by the Constitution, and individuals in high-ranking positions must maintain the confidence and trust of the public. Failure to remove Tennakoon from office, pending an investigatory process, is seen as damaging institutional credibility and eroding public faith in the governance system.

The statement also calls on the President and the National Police Commission to suspend Tennakoon from all responsibilities as the Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police and initiate appropriate disciplinary action. Furthermore, the group urges the Attorney General to prosecute Tennakoon and other implicated police officers under relevant laws, including the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Act.

As of now, the signatories include prominent figures such as Emeritus Professor Savitri Goonesekera, Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda, and Gananath Obeyesekere, along with various civil society organizations like Friday Forum, Dabindu Collective, and the Women and Media Collective.

The coalition stresses that accountability, human rights, and good governance should be paramount in public office, and they remain committed to demanding justice for victims of torture and cruel treatment, especially concerning violence against women. The statement concludes by calling for immediate action from relevant authorities and the commencement of legal proceedings without delay.

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