(Colombo) – Sri Lanka’s police forces regularly torture and ill-treat criminal suspects in custody, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. The authorities should create an independent oversight authority and adopt concrete steps to end police abuse that has had such corrosive effects across Sri Lankan society.
“The Sri Lankan police treat the use of torture as an ordinary way of obtaining confessions,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The police regularly get away with using torture to falsely ‘resolve’ cases that really aren’t being resolved.”
The 59-page report, “‘We Live in Constant Fear’: Lack of Accountability for Police Abuse in Sri Lanka,” documents various torture methods used by the Sri Lankan police against criminal suspects, including severe beatings, electric shock, suspension from ropes in painful positions, and rubbing chili paste in the genitals and eyes. Victims of torture and their families may spend years seeking justice and redress with little hope of success.
- Issue clear, public directives that police torture and other forms of abuse will not be tolerated;
- Establish an independent police oversight authority charged with investigating allegations of police abuse, the results of which would then be forwarded to the attorney general’s department for prosecution as appropriate. This authority should be housed entirely outside the police department, report to the Ministry of Justice, have all relevant authority to conduct investigations, including on its own authority, and be empowered to subpoena police, other witnesses, and police files;
- Establish an independent office in the attorney general’s department tasked specifically with investigating and prosecuting cases of police abuse, including following up on referrals from the independent police oversight authority;
- Amend police rules and manuals to be consistent with the United Nations Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions; the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials; and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials;
- Ensure magistrates fully comply with their obligations to ascertain whether a detainee produced in court has suffered torture or other ill-treatment, and to order legislatively mandated confidential medical examinations; and
- Fully implement the Convention Against Torture in line with international obligations, and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.
“The Sri Lankan police forces should immediately end the barbaric practice of torture, adhere to the rule of law, and act to earn the trust of the communities they serve,” Adams said. “That can only be achieved by taking strict measures against abuses, ensuring justice for the victims, and punishing the perpetrators – not simply by transferring them or suspending them, but through transparent and impartial prosecutions.”