On June 26, 2023, the Right to Life Human Rights Center of Sri Lanka held a commemoration to honor the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The event had as its theme, “Torture: a Crime Against Humanity.” Lawyers, JMOs (Judicial Medical Officers), social activists, and torture victims came together at the gathering to voice their support for the suppression of torture and for the protection of human rights. Prominent speakers gave thought-provoking remarks in which they discussed the problem of torture and its effects on society while sharing their own stories and perspectives.
Mrs. Amitha Priyanthi shared her story of brother’s assassination by the police in 2000, highlighting the ongoing cases against responsible police officers. She called for a change in societal attitudes to eradicate torture. Victims of torture, such as mother of Buddhika Lakshan, who was shot and suffered severe injuries that impeded his ability to walk and engage in training shared their experiences. The mother of Buddhika Lakshan bravely recounted the pain her family has endured, and the family appealed for medical assistance and avoid justice delay.
A. Ramanadan described the terrifying experience that his child went through after being detained by the Thebuwana police. Without being produced before the court he was illegally detained in the police barrack for many days. A. Ramanadan asked the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) for assistance after describing how the police had threatened him and tried to get him to drop his complaint. His son was produced before the court with the help of the HRCSL, but only after being falsely accused under explosive ordinance. He had been on remand for six months until the high court ultimately approved bail for him. In achieving justice, the Right to Life Human Rights Centre’s (R2L) assistance was crucial.
Prof. Rohan Samarajiva, said that former Minister of Justice Ali Zabry presented shocking statistics regarding the legal system in Sri Lanka, emphasizing the extensive delays in criminal cases and the need for expediting proceedings. Senior Lawyer Lakshan Dias, Chairman of the Right to Life Human Rights Centre, focused on explaining how torture constitutes a crime against humanity and stressed the importance of implementing anti-torture laws effectively in Sri Lanka. He argued that torture deviates from democratic values and called for a societal shift away from violence and towards democratic principles.
Clifford Perera, Professor of forensic Medicine, University of Ruhuna emphasised the significance of forensic reports in torture cases and the challenges faced by Judicial Medical Officers. He foreground the crucial role that forensic evidence plays in establishing the truth and ensuring justice for victims.
Mr. Philip Dissanayake, Executive Director of the Right to Life Human Rights Centre and Convener of the Sri Lankan Coalition Against Torture, provided an overview of the legal framework surrounding torture in Sri Lanka, citing the 1994 No. 22 Act, which prescribes punishment for torture. He emphasized the need for individuals to exercise their fundamental rights and Act prevention of torture, urging no one to fear harassment by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) when seeking justice.
During the event, the R2L lunched three study reports.
The event provided valuable contributions towards fostering a society that upholds human rights, rejects torture, and embraces democratic principles.