May 12, 2011/Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-092-2011
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that Mr. W.A. Lasantha Pradeep Wijeratna (36) of No. 98, Galahitiyawa, Ganemulla in the district of Gampaha was illegally arrested and severely tortured by the police officers attached to the Criminal Investigation Department on 15 August 2010.
Lasantha was initially arrested by group of officers of the Sri Lanka Navy and then handed over to the Marawila Police who in turn handed him over to the CID where he was severely tortured. He was produced before the Negombo Magistrate’s Court and remanded with a fabricated charge. Lasantha made complaints to several authorities including the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) seeking redress for his fundamental rights violations. However, his complaints have not been investigated. This case is yet another illustration of the endemic abuse of the rights of citizens by the law enforcement authorities and sadly, the uncaring attitude and ineptitude of the police hierarchy and the HRCSL.
According to the information the Asian Human Rights Commission received Mr. W.A. Lasantha Pradeep Wijeratna (36) of No. 98, Galahitiyawa, Ganemulla in the district of Gampaha is married and the father of one child.
Lasantha and five of his friends were staying in a small hotel in Marawila on 15 August 2010. At around 7.30-8pm, a group of officers of the Sri Lanka Navy arrested them and handed them over to the Marawila Police Station where they were initially detained in the cells.
A short while later, several police officers attached to the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the Sri Lanka Police Department came to the Marawila Police Station and the detainees was handed over to them. Later on the same day they were brought to the 4th floor of the CID headquarters and detained there.
The next day at 8.30am Sub Inspector (SI) Sanjeewa of the CID brought them to a separate room at the same compound where the SI started to question Lasantha concerning an attempt or any knowledge about arrangements to migrate to Australia. Further he asked about a Canadian Ship in the Northern Sea of Sri Lanka and any connections with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) organization to that ship.
Lasantha clearly stated his ignorance of these things but admitted that he was making preparations to go to Australia for employment. SI Sanjeewa was not satisfied with this statement and assaulted Lasantha. He placed a plank on Lasantha’s head which he struck with an iron hammer. Due to this assault Lasantha suffered severe shock and great pain. He was subjected to such questioning many times by several officers including SI Sanjeewa. On each occasion Lasantha was assaulted by these police officers.
On the 17 August 2010, at 4pm, SI Paranavittana of the CID brought Lasantha and a few other detainees to the National Hospital at Colombo and produced them before the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO). Before meeting the JMO they were threatened with further assault if they revealed any details of the torture they had received at the hands of the CID. They were also threatened with further detention. Eventually however, the officers did not produce Lasantha before the JMO.
Later Lasantha along with some other detainees was produced before a Magistrate of Negombo and remanded under the provision of Immigration & Emigration Amended Act.
Lasantha states that he had not committed any crime and was illegally arrested, detained and tortured by the police officers. Further he states that police filed a fabricated charge against him. Lasantha also stated that he made complaints to the Human Rights Commission, the National Police Commission and the Inspector General of Police regarding the violation of his fundamental rights but none of these authorities have responded to his appeals. He is now in fear of re-arrest and the further violation of his fundamental rights in future.
The Asian Human Rights Commission has reported innumerable cases of torturing innocent by the Sri Lankan police which are illegal under international and local law which have taken place at different Police Station in the country over the past few years.
The State of Sri Lanka sign and ratified the CAT on 3 January 1994. Following state obligations Sri Lanka adopted Act number 22 of 1994 the law adopted by the Sri Lankan parliament making torture a crime that can be punishable for minimum seven years and not less than ten years on being proven guilty. The Attorney General of Sri Lanka is suppose to file indictments in the case where credible evidence were found on torturing people by state officers.
Please send a letter to the authorities listed below expressing your concern about this case and requesting an immediate investigation into the allegations of illegal arrest, illegal detention, torturing by the police perpetrators, and the prosecution of those proven to be responsible under the criminal law of the country for misusing powers of a state. The officers involved must also be subjected to internal investigations for the breach of the department orders as issued by the police department. Further, please also request the NPC and the IGP to have a special investigation into the malpractices of the police officers for abusing the state officers’ powers.
Please note that the AHRC has also written a separate letter to the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on this regard.