Sri Lanka’s Court of Appeal today took up an unusual case of a serving police officer challenging an order issued against the police department by the country’s first independent Human Rights Commission.
Police Superintendent Palitha Panamaldeniya, has made a shocking allegation that the Human Rights Commission (HRC) had violated laws of natural justice by holding the police responsible for wrongful arrest of protesting students and using excessive force against them.
Even more surprisingly, a two-judge bench agreed to proceed with the case filed by SP Panamaldeniya, the fifth respondent in the HRC case, and fixed the next hearing for February 15.
Police had scored an own goal last month by trying to invoke the United Nation’s Universal Declaration on Human Rights as a defence against beating up student demonstrators in October outside the University Grants Commission at Ward Place, Colombo 7.
SSP Ajith Rohana, a former police spokesman, argued before the Human Rights Commission that students were in breach of an article in the UN declaration by causing disruption to motorists and others in the area.
The HRC not only rejected Rohana’s contention, but also held that in fact it was the police which violated article 5 and 7 of the universal declaration and should pay compensation to the student victims.
The Commission also found that the police were in breach of the Article 7 and 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Sri Lanka subscribes to.
The police have now escalated the issue by mounting the unusual challenge against an independent body set up in line with the 19th amendment to the constitution.
The HRC had not held individual officers responsible for assaulting the students, but collectively ordered police to pay compensation to victims and ensure there was proper training for officers to prevent a recurrence.
Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera issued a statement today saying that President’s Counsel Romesh de Silva was appearing on behalf of SP Panamaldeniya. It was unclear if the SP’s action was on his own behalf or on behalf of the entire police. (COLOMBO, January 19, 2016)