A Damning Asian Human Rights Watch Report Which If Provable Could Have Dire Ramifications Against The Government.If Not The AHRW Is Culpable Of A Distorted Testimonial.
Posted on June 27th, 2014

Sunny Sunil’s Column of Critical Analysis

June 27th, 2014

The accusations against the Government of Sri Lanka elaborated in the following item which was posted on the Infolanka News page and composed by the Asian Humen Rights Watch Organization appears to be a testimonial which if provable sounds not only shameful and damning but could carry dire ramifications and this at a time when there are accusations of Human Rights violations during the Tamil Tiger insurgency levelled against the GOSL where it does not augur well for Sri Lanka.

Therefore it seems  imperative that the Government launches an immediate investigation into the matter and examine under oath the individuals against whom these charges are levelled as otherwise it could tarnish Sri Lanka’s image as a humanitarian and compassionate country.Severe penalties need to be imposed and perhaps even a re-structuring of procedures towards protecting the incarcerated as after all the adage “To Serve and Protect” seems universally linked to the conduct of Law Enforcement and is affordable to all citizens or it is hoped!

 While the presentation is not only frightening in its intensity towards the liabilities and excesses of  Government officials~ in this case the Police, surely overstepping their metes and bounds it also conveys a sense of apathetic indifference towards how law enforcement is carried out in a nation that constantly preaches Ahimsa to the world.

 However, bearing in mind the reputation, organizations like AHRW have for exaggerating and misrepresenting facts and figures in an ongoing attempt to play goody two shoes with a comprehensive  agenda linked to the adversaries of Sri Lanka as outlined by certain expert analysts who regularly monitor their activities there is every likelihood that there is more to the story than meets the common eye although the stark reality of the death of the  unfortunate youth ( with a familiar and adulated last name in Sri Lanka to moot albeit with no veritable links towards anything beyond coincidence) while in police custody.

It also looms large towards the impact it could have on the Sri Lanka Police Force in a very derogatory and culpable sense if the case is provable as presented and all the more reason the GOSL needs to act post haste as the accusations incorporate not only police brutality and torture while in custody but also has greater implications towards all the protocols which govern a free society and the manner in which law enforcement in general is conducted in Sri Lanka where the drawn analogies seem to speak for themselves somewhat unfortunately.

 It is fervently hoped that this is not as graphic and melodramatic as it appears and that there is another side to the story as well as all the accusations made against the Government in a country which today has a reputation of an incredible recovery in the  aftermath of the Terrorist conflagaration that took nearly three decades to clear.

There should also be lessons learned from this as what has been outlined in this report is sufficient to shake the existence of Sri Lanka to her very foundations particularly as it hinges on the theme of “impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators” which needs to be proven as the furthest from the truth  towards alleviating  the reputation Sri Lanka under the present leadership has as a just and compassionate nation under a no nonsense leader whose measures often draw criticism from all the unlikely sources unable to contend with them .

Consequently it would negate the intensity of accusations levelled at the Government by an organizations that is not truly kosher in its modus operandi as most human rights watchdogs tend to be and point towards being a distorted testimonial with intent to discredit the Government carrying the related culpabilities as those of the accusers rather than the accused.

SRI LANKA : An addiction to torture

Friday, 27 June 2014, 3:08 pm
Press Release: AHRC

AHRC-STM-127-2014

A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission
SRI LANKA : An addiction to torture 17-year-old Sandun Malinga died in police custody on May 9, 2014. He had been wrongfully arrested and beaten. His repeated entreaties for medical attention because of the chest pains he suffered after the beatings were ignored. After his arrest and initial beating, he had been brought before a magistrate. He and his lawyers told the magistrate that he was suffering chest pains. Instead of following protocol and asking for the boy to be examined, the magistrate ignored their pleas and ordered the boy to be detained. He died the next day, still in custody.

His torture and death are part of a pandemic of abuse by state agents. Impunity for the perpetrators is virtually guaranteed. Torture is used for all kinds of reasons, including as revenge for complaints about torture. High-ranking police officers and the judiciary are also compliant in the abuse; complaints to IGPs and ASPs are rarely responded to, and magistrates register even the flimsiest cases by the police.

The Sri Lankan government encourages torture despite public gestures at the international level claiming that it is opposed to torture. The Convention against Torture Act (No. 22 of 1994) is not implemented anymore and this is a policy decision. Another avenue open for torture victims in the past was the filing of fundamental rights applications. This, too, has been discouraged for policy reasons.

 

The Supreme Court follows a policy of encouraging lawyers to settle cases by negotiation. A torture victim, therefore, is pressed to negotiate with the perpetrator. As a result of this policy, the number of fundamental rights applications on torture has dropped drastically. Thus, by way of official policy, torture victims are deprived of any possibility of finding legal redress. There is also no witness protection law and victims have been assassinated for pursuing justice.

Common methods of torture used in Sri Lanka range from beatings, sometimes with the victim hung upside down, to the use of chili powder applied to the eyes and genitals. Another common method is the use of the ‘dharma chakra’, when the accused is tied up between two poles and beaten. Victims are also often humiliated, forced to strip naked or, upon asking for water, told to drink from the toilet.

Another common practice is, subsequent to severe torture, police officers force the victims to sign blank sheets of paper. These are later used when fabricated charges are laid against victims. The compliance of the magistracy in police abuse is often seen in these cases.

In some cases, collective punishment is exercised in response to complaints about torture. For example, in April this year a group of nine men were arrested and tortured by the Matale police in response to a protest in front of the office of the Superintendent of Police. The protestors were responding to the Superintendent’s attack on a man who had been legally collecting firewood on the estate for this late wife’s almsgiving. The nine men arrested and tortured included people who were not present at the protest.

It can be said that the Sri Lankan police are addicted to torture. The responsibility is not only with low-ranking officers who may be directly involved in torture but also with high-ranking officers like the OICs, ASPs and DIGs, who fail to exercise their command responsibility to prevent torture. There is a belief among policemen that without the use of torture they are unable to do their job. The truth is also that torture creates opportunities for corruption.

Complaints of torture are filed with the IGP and also with the Human Rights Commission, despite the fact that human rights organisations are aware that no real investigations or prosecution will take place. There are hundreds of presentations on Youtube where victims tell their experiences of torture in graphic detail. Besides this, there are other documentations, such as for example the book that was published last year by the Asian Human Rights Commission documenting 400 cases of torture experiences, taken from around 1,500 cases studied by the Commission. The United Nations agencies dealing with torture, including the Committee against Torture, have made so many recommendations to SRi Lanka to investigate torture complaints and to prosecute offenders but the government ignores such recommendations. Besides the police, the Sri Lankan military are also accused of very serious acts of torture, particularly relating to the operation of anti-terrorism law. None of these complaints are being investigated.

Often, there are reports about custodial killings. Some are cases in which victims die due to excessive beatings, such as for example the 17-year-old Sandun Malinga, who was beaten to death recently in police custody. There are other instances in which so called bad criminals are killed, allegedly because they tried to escape from police custody or tried to harm policemen. Of course, such stories are fabricated but there is no authority that is ready to examine the circumstances of these deaths in custody. Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that Sri Lanka is a torture republic. The only inaccuracy may be about the word ‘republic’, given the constitutional changes which have virtually created an authoritarian system.

Torture is part of the day-to-day operation of the Sri Lankan state. The democratic, rule-of-law-based system that existed in Sri Lanka has been systematically undermined and its governing institutions have been no longer function in their assigned roles. Following the collapse of the rule of law and a functioning criminal justice system, an alternative system based on state violence has been entrenched in Sri Lanka. The impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake was the death knell of the Sri Lankan judiciary, the end of a slow death from multiple blows, one of the strongest of which was the 1978 Constitution itself. Without a functioning judiciary, there is no recourse for the citizen in the defence of their rights. At the highest level, Chief Justice Mohan Peiris asks torture victims to settle their cases, and at the lowest level magistrates ignore complaints of torture and return victims to custody, and refuse to inquire into deaths in custody, accepting police claims about self-defence.

At the moment, there are no reasonable grounds on which to believe that torture will be brought to an end in Sri Lanka. All indications are that this problem will increase due to the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrator

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