SRI LANKA: Man killed by police officers in Gokarella
Posted on May 20th, 2016

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

ISSUES: Extrajudicial killing; impunity; rule of law; justice
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that Mr. Mannikkuge Sumith Dayaratne of Madhuwa, in Katunayake, has been extrajudicially killed by officers attached to the Negombo Law Enforcement Unit and the Special Task Force (STF). The fact that no proper investigation has been carried out yet is a denial of justice to the victim and his family. The case illustrates the exceptional collapse of the rule of law in the country and that the State’s policy of combating crime by killing suspects has encouraged police officers to kill with impunity.

CASE NARRATIVE:

According to the information received by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Mr. Mannikkuge Sumith Dayaratne, hailed from Madhuwa, Katunayake in the Gampaha District. He was extrajudicially killed by police officers attached to the Negombo Law Enforcement Unit and Police Special Task Force (STF) after being arrested on 22 April 2016 at around 10 p.m. at his wife’s house at Kumbukkete, Pahala Madagama, Gokarella in Kurunegala District.

The police officers attached to the Negombo Law Enforcement Unit and the STF apprehended him and took him away to a vehicle parked on the road. His family members state that at the time of arrest neither he nor other family members of the victim were given any arrest warrant nor any reason for his arrest.

In early hours of the next day, family members were informed by the police officers that Sumith succumbed to gunshot injuries that turned out to be fatal. Later, the family members learned from mass media about the media communique issued by the police spokesman, which stated that Sumith committed suicide by shooting himself twice in the head. The communique further mentioned that Sumith was a member of a group committed to carrying out organized crimes such as extortions, murders, and robberies.

The relatives have questioned how Sumith could shoot himself in the head twice, while in police custody, and that there was no evidence whatsoever of the weapon with which he shot himself. The relatives vehemently deny the police allegations that he was engaged in a criminal syndicate. They reiterate the fact that police have entirely fabricated this story in order to cover up the extrajudicial killing of Sumith in their custody. The family is seeking justice against the actions of the law enforcement officers.

The Kurunegala Chief Magistrate Geethani Wijesinghe visited the scene of crime as indicated by the police officers and ordered the police to send the body to the Kurunegala Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) for a post-mortem inquiry.

The relatives of Sumith maintain that Sumith was illegally arrested and extrajudicially killed by the police officers. Indications suggest this is yet another example of Sri Lankan police’s adoption of the systematic practice of extra judicially killing suspects, often innocent, in the guise of crime prevention. All such innocent victims have been killed after arrest in police custody.

The prevention of crime is one of the paramount duties in any civilized state. According to the Constitution of the country, the law enforcement authorities are bound to protect the right to life of its citizens and their constitutionally enshrined rights. Sri Lanka, being a country governed under a democratic framework is bound to support the Judiciary and impose the rule of law and protect the civil liberties of all its citizens. Extrajudicial killing of its citizens by police officers has become a peremptory norm in the country.

Any incident in which a policeman kills a person should be investigated promptly, efficiently, and without delay. However, in this instance, the State has not shown any interest in investigating the killing and bringing the responsible police officers before the court. For many years now there has been no command responsibility in the Sri Lankan police and it is the supervisory officers that should be held primarily responsible for the killings perpetrated by officers under their command.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

The Asian Human Rights Commission has reported numerous cases of arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and extrajudicial killings cases of citizens at the hands of the police, something that is illegal under international and local law and something that has been taking place at different police stations in the country over the past few years. The Asian Human Rights Commission has observed that the Sri Lankan police have used torture as an instrument to terrorize innocent persons and harass the public. Further, the country’s police are implementing a policy of eliminating criminals by killing them after arresting them without producing them in a court of law.

The Constitution of Sri Lanka has guaranteed the right to freedom from torture. According to Article 11 of the Constitution, No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. Also, Article 13(4) states, “No person shall be punished with death or imprisonment except by order of a competent court, made in accordance with procedure established by law. The arrest, holding in custody, detention or other deprivation of personal liberty of a person, pending investigation or trial, shall not constitute punishment.” Further Article 13 (5) guarantees the right of presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Furthermore, Sri Lanka has signed and ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Nevertheless, the lack of protection offered to those who are willing to take up cases against abusive police officers and State authorities, means that the law continues to be employed as a tool by the police to harass people. This not only takes a long-term toll on the victim and his or her family, but on society as a whole, by the undermining of civilian respect for the law and encouraging impunity.

The Asian Human Rights Commission has also continuously exposed the way witnesses and the victims are being harassed and, on some occasions, even killed to suppress justice. Furthermore, the AHRC has urged the State of Sri Lanka to adopt a law for the protection of witness protection.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write to the authorities listed below expressing your concern about this case and requesting an immediate investigation into the allegations of extrajudicial killings by police perpetrators, and the prosecution of those proven to be responsible under the criminal law of the country. The officers involved must also be subject to internal investigations for breach of Police Department orders.
The AHRC will also write a separate letter to the Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions in this regard.
To support this case, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ________,

SRI LANKA: Man killed by police officers in Gokarella

Name of Victim: Mr. Mannikkuge Sumith Dayaratne of Bodhiraja Mawatha, Madhuwa, Katunayake in Gampaha District
Alleged perpetrators: Officers attached to the Negombo Law Enforcement Unit and the Special Task Force (STF) of Sri Lanka Police Department
Date of incident: 22 April 2016
Place of incident: Gokarella Police Division

According to the information I have received, Mr. Mannikkuge Sumith Dayaratne of Madhuwa, in Katunayake, has been extra judicially killed by officers attached to the Negombo Law Enforcement Unit and the Special Task Force (STF). The fact that no proper investigation has been carried out yet is a denial of justice to the victim and his family. The case illustrates the exceptional collapse of the rule of law in the country and that the State’s policy of combating crime by killing suspects has encouraged police officers to kill with impunity.

According to the information received by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Mr. Mannikkuge Sumith Dayaratne, hailed from Madhuwa, Katunayake in the Gampaha District. He was extrajudicially killed by police officers attached to the Negombo Law Enforcement Unit and Police Special Task Force (STF) after being arrested on 22 April 2016 at around 10 p.m. at his wife’s house at Kumbukkete, Pahala Madagama, Gokarella in Kurunegala District.

The police officers attached to the Negombo Law Enforcement Unit and the STF apprehended him and took him away to a vehicle parked on the road. His family members state that at the time of arrest neither he nor other family members of the victim were given any arrest warrant nor any reason for his arrest.

In early hours of the next day, family members were informed by the police officers that Sumith succumbed to gunshot injuries that turned out to be fatal. Later, the family members learned from mass media about the media communique issued by the police spokesman, which stated that Sumith committed suicide by shooting himself twice in the head. The communique further mentioned that Sumith was a member of a group committed to carrying out organized crimes such as extortions, murders, and robberies.

The relatives have questioned how Sumith could shoot himself in the head twice, while in police custody, and that there was no evidence whatsoever of the weapon with which he shot himself. The relatives vehemently deny the police allegations that he was engaged in a criminal syndicate. They reiterate the fact that police have entirely fabricated this story in order to cover up the extrajudicial killing of Sumith in their custody. The family is seeking justice against the actions of the law enforcement officers.

The Kurunegala Chief Magistrate Geethani Wijesinghe visited the scene of crime as indicated by the police officers and ordered the police to send the body to the Kurunegala Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) for a post-mortem inquiry.

The relatives of Sumith maintain that Sumith was illegally arrested and extrajudicially killed by the police officers. Indications suggest this is yet another example of Sri Lankan police’s adoption of the systematic practice of extra judicially killing suspects, often innocent, in the guise of crime prevention. All such innocent victims have been killed after arrest in police custody.

The prevention of crime is one of the paramount duties in any civilized state. According to the Constitution of the country, the law enforcement authorities are bound to protect the right to life of its citizens and their constitutionally enshrined rights. Sri Lanka, being a country governed under a democratic framework is bound to support the Judiciary and impose the rule of law and protect the civil liberties of all its citizens. Extrajudicial killing of its citizens by police officers has become a peremptory norm in the country.

Any incident in which a policeman kills a person should be investigated promptly, efficiently, and without delay. However, in this instance, the State has not shown any interest in investigating the killing and bringing the responsible police officers before the court. For many years now there has been no command responsibility in the Sri Lankan police and it is the supervisory officers that should be held primarily responsible for the killings perpetrated by officers under their command.

I request the intervention of your good offices to ensure that the authorities listed below instigate an immediate investigation into the allegations of the extrajudicial killing of the victim. The officers involved must also be subjected to internal investigations for the breach of Department orders as issued by the Police Department.

Yours Sincerely,

———————
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

  1. Mr. Pujith Jayasundara
    Inspector General of Police
    New Secretariat
    Colombo 1
    SRI LANKA
    Fax: +94 11 2 440440 / 327877
    E-mail: [email protected]
  2. Mr. Jayantha Jayasooriya PC
    Attorney General
    Attorney General’s Department
    Colombo 12
    SRI LANKA
    Fax: +94 11 2 436421
    E-mail: [email protected]
  3. Secretary
    National Police Commission
    3rd Floor, Rotunda Towers
    109 Galle Road
    Colombo 03
    SRI LANKA
    Tel: +94 11 2 395310
    Fax: +94 11 2 395867
    E-mail: [email protected] or [email protected]
  4. Secretary
    Human Rights Commission
    No. 36, Kynsey Road
    Colombo 8
    SRI LANKA
    Tel: +94 11 2 694 925 / 673 806
    Fax: +94 11 2 694 924 / 696 470
    E-mail: [email protected]

Thank you.

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