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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) yesterday issued a statement expressing its concern regarding the recent rise of custodial deaths and crime in the country.
“One of the worst crimes in a civilised society under the Rule of Law is custodial deaths. Our legal system provides for investigation, inquiry, trial and punishment by proper authorities which is the base of democracy and the Rule of Law, and, the credibility and transparency of such process, must be diligently and fiercely preserved,” it said.
The association also highlighted that under Article 13 (4) of the Constitution, no person shall be punished with death or imprisonment except by order of a competent court.
“Hence, even a convicted criminal has a right to his life. Our Superior Courts repeatedly held that the extra-judicial killing of a suspect in police custody violated the right to life, despite the absence of an explicit right to life in the Constitution of Sri Lanka,” it added.
The BASL also recalled that on 3 February the Supreme Court in view of repeated violations of the fundamental rights of persons in custody causing death directed the Inspector General of Police to formulate, issue and implement guidelines to the Police, elaborating on the steps that should be taken by each officer to avoid ‘encounter deaths’ in the future.
“In spite of such directions given by the Supreme Court, the BASL observes that custodial deaths and torture continue at an alarming rate. The BASL insists that the duty of the State is not only to safeguard the rights of citizens but also to compensate the victims and punish the violators of the law,” the BASL said.
“Thus, we are of the view that the Government together with other stakeholders should impose stricter laws and punishments on errant police officers for misuse of their power and not fulfilling their duties, and draft enforceable guidelines, to prevent the recurrence of custodial deaths. Further, law enforcement authorities should take immediate steps to prevent criminal activity in order to protect our citizens,” the association added.