Sri Lanka Brief
NewsThere is no prosecution of the police officers who tortured hundreds of workers in the Free Trade Zone

There is no prosecution of the police officers who tortured hundreds of workers in the Free Trade Zone

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 Mr. M H A Sameera Sandaruwa (28) of ‘Sameera Sevana’, Dumkola Watte, Daragala, Waimada in the Badulla District is single and is also a worker at Noratel Lanka Ltd in the Free Trade Zone (FTZ) in Katunaya.
On 30 May 2011 Sameera participated in a trade union action organized by the factory workers. Police officers attached to the Katunayake Police Station arrived at the scene and without warning severely assaulted the workers.
Several workers were injured including Sameera but the police did not provide medical treatment. He and the other workers were illegally detained at the Katunayaka Police Station before being given medical assistance. Sameera was taken to the Negombo Base Hospital for treatment. To-date no police officers have been arrested for illegally arresting, publicly torturing or detaining Sameera and his fellow workers. This case is yet another illustration of the exceptional collapse of the rule of law in the country.

CASE NARRATIVE:

According to the information that the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) received Mr. M H A Sameera Sandaruwa (28) of ‘Sameera Sevana’, Dumkola Watte, Daragala, Waimada in the Badulla District is single and works at Noratel Lanka Ltd in the Free Trade Zone (FTZ) in Katunaya.

On 30 May 2011 Sameera reported to his factory in the FTZ at 6 am as usual. At 10.30 am it was announced that a collective trade union action by all the workers would take place against the newly introduced government’s Private Sector Pension Bill in front of the main gate of the FTZ. Thousands of workers participated in the protest.

Within a few minutes hundreds of police officers, mainly attached to the Katunayaka Police Station, surrounded the protesting workers. Without issuing any warning the police officers started to beat the workers indiscriminately. The female workers who were in the front line of the protestors were the first to be beaten.

The police officers baton charged the workers before using tear gas. The workers then ran inside their respective factories for protection.

The police officers then entered the FTZ, followed the workers into their factories and dragged them outside to the gate. They also indiscriminately caused damage to the factory property and the motor bikes which were parked at the factory’s compounds.

Later the police officers ordered the workers to form two lines and walk ahead. When they did this the officers on both sides started to beat the workers with poles and iron chains. If any worker looked directly at the police officer then that particular worker was severely beaten again.

Many workers were injured but the officers paid no attention to their condition.

The workers were ordered to board a bus which took them to the Katunayaka Police Station. when the injured workers cried out for relief they were ignored by the police.

At the police station Sameera and the other workers were asked to provide the names and the addresses of the all the workers. Due to the fear of further torture they provided the information. Sameera observed that more than 200 workers were detained at the police station at that time.

Then police officers ordered the workers to come out of the station and asked them to sit on the ground surrounding the bus. The workers followed the orders. Meanwhile Sameera had fainted but despite this none of the police officers provided any treatment for his injuries. When he was able to look around he further observed that there were more than a dozen workers who were injured and some had fainted due to the hot sun.

After 30 minutes a senior military officer came to the scene with a powerful politician, a deputy minister of the area and warned the workers that this would be the result if they engaged in any protest against the government in future. He further warned the workers that by making trade union actions some political parties benefited and so they should not participate in these union actions.

Then the senior military officers ordered to take the workers to the main gate. Then he observed that another set of workers still participating in the trade union action against the same Bill. Then the senior military officers ordered the injured workers to go and inform the protesting workers that they were injured and beaten for protesting and stop the protest. Some injured workers did the same while the police officers and the senior military officers observing their movements.

Eventually Sameera, along with the other injured workers was brought to the Negombo Base Hospital for treatment. While some of the workers were warded Sameera was released after receiving treatment.

In this particular matter several thousand of workers, trade unions of the country and civil rights movements, nationally and internationally paid their attention from the very beginning to this case. They all collectively raised their voices seeking justice for the victims.

However, the state’s law enforcement authorities have not shown any interest in holding a credible investigation and no one has been arrested or held responsible. Sameera and the other victims are being denied of justice.
SLG

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