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FeaturesNewsSRI LANKA: The murder of an innocent man by the Hungama police must be independently and promptly investigated

SRI LANKA: The murder of an innocent man by the Hungama police must be independently and promptly investigated

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Sri Lanka police: brutality is their norm

On 16 August 2012, at about 5.00pm, Thushara went to Hungama Town to buy some vegetables and as he was on his way several police officers attached to the Hungama Police Station arrested him at Bataatha Farm. Thushara was severely assaulted in full view of some bystanders. Due to the injuries he suffered at their hands the police officers admitted him to the Ranna Government Hospital for emergency treatment but hospital authorities then transferred him to the Tangalle General Hospital. Subsequently he was transferred to the Matara Teaching Hospital and finally to the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital. At that hospital whilst in the Intensive Care Unit he succumbed to his injuries early in the morning of 20 August 2012. 

Mr. Koggala Marakkalage Thushara Samanthilake (37) of No.66, Cheythiya Pura, Ranna/ East, Ranna in Hambantota District was a Security Officer attached to a private security firm and stationed at the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery at Colombo.

This case is emblematic of the crisis that now faces the Sri Lankan police force where a lack of accountability and professionalism has allowed extrajudicial punishment to become the norm.
September 11, 2012
ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-168-2012

CASE NARRATIVE:

According to information the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received Mr. Koggala Marakkalage Thushara Samanthilake (37) of No.66, Cheythiya Pura, Ranna/ East, Ranna in Hambantota District was a Security Officer attached to a private security firm and stationed at the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery at Colombo.

On 15 August 2012, Thushara took leave from his work place and returned home at about 8.30 pm. On the 16 August 2012 at about 5 pm he went to Hungama Town to purchase some vegetables for the family.

Photo: Mr. Koggala Marakkalage Thushara Samanthilake

As Thushara did not return home, at about 7.30 pm his wife went to the main road in search of her husband and asked some passersby who she knew whether they had seen her husband.
Then one person told her there was a rumour to say that he had been arrested by the police at Bataatha Farm and had later been admitted to hospital. Then she went to Bataatha Farm area, made some inquiries and came to know that police had taken her husband to Ranna Government Hospital with head injuries. The time was around 7.45pm.

Then she went to the Ranna Government Hospital where she was told her that her husband had been transferred to Tangalla General Hospital. As it was very late and as she was not able to travel to Tangalle alone she returned home. Then on the following day she with her family members went Thangalla General Hospital where she heard that her husband had been transferred to the Matara Teaching Hospital as he was in very serious condition.

After that they all went to Matara Teaching Hospital where, once again she was told that Thushara had been transferred to Karapitiya Teaching Hospital. They then went to the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital.
They found Thushara in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and his wife was allowed to see him. The time was around 4.30 pm and at about 8.30 pm Thushara’s wife and the others returned home.

On the same night at between 8.45pm and 9pm two police officers from Hungama Police Station came to their home and the wife that Thushara had been arrested with a parcel of drugs and that while the police were taking Thushara to Hungama Police Station he had jumped out of the moving jeep and injured his head.

Then the officers gave Thushara’s wife Rs.1,500/= saying, “you may be not having money for household expenses, if you need any more money come to the police station”. They then left the house.
On midnight of 19 August or in the early hours of 20 August Thushara succumbed to his injuries at the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital Intensive Care Unit. Thushara’s wife came to know about the death at about 7 am in the morning of 20 August 2012.

Thushara’s wife and several other relatives went to the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital but the hospital would not release of the body that day.

On the 21 August 2012, the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) attached to Karapitiya Teaching Hospital and the Magistrate of Galle had examined the dead body. Later they had an Inquiry into the sudden death and recorded statements from Thushra’s wife and other members of the family.

They all said that Thushra’s death was due to brutal assault by officers attached to Hungama Police Station. They said that the story of him jumping out of a moving jeep was nothing more than a cover up. Finally Thushara’s body was released at 1.30pm and the family was allowed to take it home to prepare it for the funeral.
The funeral was held on the 23 of August 2012 and the people of the area were confused over the death. Police suspecting a commotion deployed officers around the funeral house as well as in the area. The people who came to pay last respect to Thushara had to face harassment from police in civilian clothes. Due to this, necessary funeral rites could not be performed peacefully.

The wife of Thushara and other family members of Thushara state that Thushara was murdered by the police officers attached to the Hungama Police Station after he was illegally arrested and detained. They further state that Thushara had never done any illegal act in his life.

They emphasised that Thushara was a law abiding and peaceful person who supported his neighbours whenever possible. They complained that Thushara was murdered by the police officers and demand an independent, prompt, impartial and transparent inquiry into this case. They fear that while members of the community witnessed Thushara being severely beaten by the police officers in public these witnesses are liable to be harassed and intimidated and may therefore not be willing to come forward and give evidence. The perpetrators are police officers and the witnesses are in fear of their lives. They seek the state’s intervention to provide protection for all the witness and the family members of the victim promptly.

The relatives of Thushara have made complaints to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), Attorney General (AG), Inspector General of Police (IGP), Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) of Southern Province, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Hambantota, Officer in-Charge (OIC) of the Hungama Police Station.

However, as it typical in Sri Lanka where the perpetrators are agents of the state none of these officials or authorities has initiated investigations into this extra judicial execution. The relatives state that they are being denied justice by the law enforcement agencies of the country.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please call for the thorough, legitimate investigation of the case and for those proven responsible to be brought before a court of law. An investigation would need to thoroughly examine the lack of protection and support extended to a family and a witness under threat. Such protection must now be promptly provided. Please also call for the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka to independently investigate the case, particularly the roles of the high ranking police officers in the district.

The AHRC has written to the Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions informing him of this case
AHRC

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