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NewsAHRC demands justice by Neth FM journalist assaulted by police

AHRC demands justice by Neth FM journalist assaulted by police

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The Asian Human Rights Commission has demanded justice for journalist Nilupa Sanjaya Liyanagehewa, who had been assaulted by police.
 In a statement, the AHRC says it has received information that Mr. Liyanagehewa of Neth FM, one of the Sri Lanka’s leading electronic media institutions, was assaulted by a group of 15 police officers attached to the Mulleriyawa Police Station on 4 June 2011.

 He was later admitted to the National Hospital of Colombo in critical condition.

 Police Headquarters announced that eight officers, including the OIC and the one Sub-Inspector of the station have been interdicted following the investigation conducted by the Special Investigation Unit of the Sri Lanka Police.

 The torture of a person by a state officer constitutes a crime which can be tried by a High Court and punished with a minimum seven years imprisonment under the CAT Act, Act No 22 of 1994.

 However, no prosecution has been started.

 The government has not shown any interest in prosecuting the perpetrators.

 Freedom of expression in the country is in peril and any journalist that reports on matters that the government does finds themselves in danger.

 The relatives of the victim and the society as a whole are waiting to see justice done in this brutal attack. This case is yet another illustration of the exceptional collapse of the rule of law in the country.

 CASE NARRATIVE:

 According to the information received by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) a journalist of one of Sri Lanka’s leading electronic media institutions, Mr. Nilupa Sanjaya Liyanagehewa was seriously assaulted by a team of 15 police officers attached to the Mulleriyawa Police Station on 4 June 2011. Mr. Sanjaya is employed by Neth FM.

   On this particular day Sanjaya had a family gathering in his home at Angoda, Mulleriyawa in the district of Colombo. As Mr. Sanjaya approached his house a group of uniformed police officers brutally assaulted him. The reason the officers gave for the unjustifiable and criminal assault was that he rode a motorcycle without wearing a helmet. Later the officers brought Sanjaya, who was, by then, in severe condition with injuries suffered due to the torture to the Mulleriyawa Police Station. He was later admitted to the National Hospital of Colombo and later transferred to a private hospital.

   Several days after the incident the Sri Lanka Police Headquarters revealed that the Officer-in-Charge (OIC) and seven other policemen of Mulleriyawa Police Station had been suspended over the alleged assault. Further it was announced that an Inspector of Police and one Sub-Inspector of Police were among the officers who were interdicted.
 
 In recent months many journalists have been assaulted and tortured, some of them in broad daylight and in full view of the public. At the beginning those attacked were targeted because they were considered opponents of the government. However, more recently journalists are being targeting irrespective of their identity and political views. Even journalists attached to the state media are being assaulted. However, it is important to note that even in these cases no prosecution ever takes place.

 This is a scandalous situation which has been prevailing for a long time now. In Sri Lanka the intellectuals, civil society activists and the patriotic citizens who love the country need to see that the democratic rights and civil liberties of all are protected.

 ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

 Reporters Without Borders has issued a communiqué following the recent attack on Uthayan News Editor that,

 “Combating impunity is the first step towards creating the conditions for independent and pluralist journalism.

 

 This attack must not be the prelude to a new wave of violence against journalists, which has been on the wane during the past year, in part because so many journalists are in exile. We remind the authorities that impunity continues to encourage wrongdoers.

 Physical attacks against journalists have fallen overall since 2010 but threats and acts of intimidation continue to be common in Sri Lanka without the judicial authorities necessarily taking much interest”, they said.

 The Asian Human Rights Commission observed the attack on Sanjaya was the third attack on a Sri Lankan journalist in the past two months. Independent Television Network journalist Niroshan Premarathna, Uthayan News Editor Gnanasundaram Kuganathan and Uthayan reporter Mr. S. Kavitharan were assaulted in different places in the country. In the case of Niroshan Premarathna he was assaulted inside the Panadura Police Station even after he revealed himself as a journalist attached to the ITN. This in itself reveals the contempt with which the authorities hold journalists in general.

 The Asian Human Rights Commission also observed that four journalists have been murdered in Sri Lanka since 2008 in which a link with the victim’s work was clearly established, and a well-known cartoonist, Prageeth Eknaligoda, has been missing since January 2010. None of these cases has been solved. More than 50 journalists and press freedom activists have fled abroad in recent years because their lives are in danger.

 SUGGESTED ACTION:

 Please send a letter to the authorities listed below expressing your concern about this case and requesting an immediate investigation into the allegations of assault against the journalist by the unidentified gang, and the prosecution of those proven to be responsible under the criminal law of the country.
 Please note that the AHRC has also written a separate letter to Mr. Ambeyi Ligabo, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression on this regard.

 To support this appeal please click here:

 SAMPLE LETTER:

 Dear ________,

 SRI LANKA: No prosecution of the police officers who tortured Neth FM Journalist

 Name of the victim: Mr. Nilupa Sanjaya Liyanagehewa, a journalist working in Neth FM

 Alleged perpetrator: 15 unidentified police officers attached to the Mulleriyawa Police Station

 Date of incident: 4 June 2011

 Place of incident: Angoda, Mulleriyawa in the Colombo District

 I am writing to express my serious concern over the case of a journalist of one of Sri Lanka’s leading electronic media institutions, Mr. Nilupa Sanjaya Liyanagehewa was seriously assaulted by a team of 15 police officers attached to the Mulleriyawa Police Station on 4 June 2011. Mr. Sanjaya is employed by Neth FM.

 On this particular day Sanjaya had a family gathering in his home at Angoda, Mulleriyawa in the district of Colombo. As Mr. Sanjaya approached his house a group of uniformed police officers brutally assaulted him. The reason the officers gave for the unjustifiable and criminal assault was that he rode a motorcycle without wearing a helmet. Later the officers brought Sanjaya, who was, by then, in severe condition with injuries suffered due to the torture to the Mulleriyawa Police Station. He was later admitted to the National Hospital of Colombo and later transferred to a private hospital.

 Several days after the incident the Sri Lanka Police Headquarters revealed that the Officer-in-Charge (OIC) and seven other policemen of Mulleriyawa Police Station had been suspended over the alleged assault. Further it was announced that an Inspector of Police and one Sub-Inspector of Police were among the officers who were interdicted.

 In recent months many journalists have been assaulted and tortured, some of them in broad daylight and in full view of the public. At the beginning those attacked were targeted because they were considered opponents of the government. However, more recently journalists are being targeting irrespective of their identity and political views. Even journalists attached to the state media are being assaulted. However, it is important to note that even in these cases no prosecution ever takes place.

 This is a scandalous situation which has been prevailing for a long time now. In Sri Lanka the intellectuals, civil society activists and the patriotic citizens who love the country need to see that the democratic rights and civil liberties of all are protected.

 I request your urgent intervention to ensure that the authorities listed below instigate an immediate investigation into the allegations of assault against the journalist by the unidentified perpetrators, and the prosecution of those proven to be responsible under the criminal law of the country.

 Yours sincerely,

 
 ———————

 PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
 

 1. Mr. N K Illangakoon

 Inspector General of Police

 New Secretariat

 Colombo 1

 SRI LANKA

 Fax: +94 11 2 440440 / 327877

 E-mail: igp@police.lk

 
 2. Mr. Mohan Peiris

 Attorney General

 Attorney General’s Department

 Colombo 12

 SRI LANKA

 Fax: +94 11 2 436421

 E-mail: ag@attorneygeneral.gov.lk

 
 3. Secretary

 National Police Commission

 3rd Floor, Rotunda Towers

 109 Galle Road

 Colombo 03

 SRI LANKA

 Tel:             +94 11 2 395310    

 Fax: +94 11 2 395867

 E-mail: npcgen@sltnet.lk or polcom@sltnet.lk
 
 4. Secretary

 Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission

 No. 108

 Barnes Place

 Colombo 07

 SRI LANKA

 Tel:             +9411 2694925      ,             +9411 2685980      ,             +9411 2685981    

 Fax: +9411 2694924 (General)             +94112696470       (Chairman)

 E-mail: sechrc@sltnet.lk
 
 Thank you.

   Urgent Appeals Programme

 Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

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