Deaths in Police Custody
Media Release/ 24th June 2014
The Friday Forum has urged the Inspector General of Police to respond as a matter of urgency to the current public concern, including that of the Bar Council, on the deaths that are taking place in police custody. A particularly shocking recent incident involves the death of a 17year old minor after assault in police custody.
The jurisprudence of the Supreme Court, including rulings by the late Justice Mark Fernando, has held the State accountable under our Constitution to prevent custodial deaths and torture as a violation of the basic rights guaranteed to all. In the past, senior Police officials have been summoned to be present in the Supreme Court. Their responsibility to ensure prosecution and internal disciplinary procedures for such violence has been emphasized by the Court. It is regrettable to find civil society organizations and lawyers constantly reporting that the high incidence of torture and custodial violence continues unabated.
The Friday Forum is likewise deeply concerned about the killing, in very suspicious circumstances, of alleged criminals while under arrest and being escorted by police officers, who claim rather unconvincingly, that they act in self defence when their captives turn on them.
The Police force too have encountered violence and harassment when they seek to fulfill their responsibilities .The attack and murder of policemen on duty, an incident of a policeman being forced to kneel and apologize to a politician who was asked to pay a spot fine for speeding on an expressway, and the assault of a policeman (now in hiding) subsequent to issuing a fine for a similar offence, indicate that the State is failing in its responsibility to protect officials who seek to do their duty. We consider it the responsibility of the IGP, as the most senior official responsible for effective law enforcement and the due administration of criminal justice, to take immediate measures to investigate, prosecute and take disciplinary action against police personnel who perpetrate custodial violence and torture, and to safeguard, in a legal manner, those who fulfill their responsibilities to the public.
Serious cause for alarm also arises from recent reports indicating abuse or incompetence in handling weapons carried by police for protection when on duty. 0n the evening of 12th June, a young man riding a motor cycle was shot at and killed, and the same evening a three wheeler was shot at and hit a person standing in the garden of his house.
Friday Forum has called upon the IGP to act urgently on the proposals made by the Bar Council and conduct a credible investigation that will help him to take necessary action to prevent and respond to a very grave phenomenon that can affect the lives of all Sri Lankans.