SRI LANKA: A call for a comprehensive inquiry into the death of a person in custody at Pussellawa Police
Posted on September 21st, 2016

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

ISSUES: Denying justice; impunity; rule of law; police investigation;
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that Raviraj Kavichandran a resident of Pussellawa had according to the police, allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself on the night of his arrest at the Pussellawa police station on 18th Septemeber 2016. Raviraj’s family members claim witness to him being beaten up at the police station and that he died as a result of the abuse. He had been arrested on Saturday 17th September 2016, following a court order. Two police officers on duty have been suspended. However, despite repeated appeals by his family members and mass protests by residents no proper investigation has been launched into his death.

CASE NARRATIVE:

According information we have received the suspect who is a resident of Rosland Estate in Pussellawa is a toddy tapper. He had been ordered by court on an earlier occasion to engage in community work for being in possession of toddy without a permit. According to police, he was again taken into custody on the 17th, as he had failed to honour this court order.

The next morning Kaviraj’s family members had received news that he died in the Pussellawa Hospital and the cause of his death was that he had hung himself with the shirt he was wearing in the police cell.
According to the relatives of the deceased, he was assaulted by the officers at the time of the arrest, and one of his brothers’ states that he saw his brother being assaulted inside the police station. His relatives claim that he died as a result of the police beating.

Large crowds gathered on learning of this death, protesting against what happened to the deceased at the police station. The protestors stated that if such killings occur at police stations, it is not safe for them to go to a police station. On the night of the 18th September , following the protests, the Police Headquarters issued a statement stating that a sub inspector and police constable , on duty on the night of Kaviraj’s death have been suspended over the incident, due to lack of supervision. According to information we have received the OIC of Pussellawa Police Station, Chief Inspector L. Kaluarachchi and one constable have been transferred to the Gampola police station. However, the crowd demanded that the OIC should be suspended immediately.

Although the police claim that the man hung himself with his own t-shirt, and committed suicide, the protesters did not believe the police story. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) calls for a comprehensive forensic examination of the victim’s body by an independent judicial medical officer. A proper judicial medical examination will establish whether the death was from suicide or not. Similarly, whether the deceased was assaulted at the time of arrest and while at the police station can also be verified by such a forensic examination.

According to information we have received so far, the Peradeniya Judicial Medical Officer Prabhath Serasinghe in an open report has pronounced that the death of a suspect in Pussellawa police station after the post mortem which was carried out on 19th September 2016. According to the reports, suspect was said to have committed suicide between Saturday night and Sunday morning. He was arrested on Saturday evening by the Pussellawa police and was in a cell in the police station when the death occurred.

We have also learnt that the JMO has forwarded body parts of the dead individual to the Government Analyst for further investigations and that a further Magisterial Inquiry is to be held on September 23.

SUGESTED ACTION:

Going by past experience, the behavior of police under such circumstances is to ensure that no proper inquiry takes place, and to attempt to influence officers to getting favorable reports for themselves. It is thus essential that the Inspector General of Police should first and foremost remove the Officer in Charge of the Police Station (OIC), and all Senior Officers, in order to remove the possibility of interference into the inquiry.

The AHRC has consistently pointed out that on all matters relating to torture and ill treatment, and any other illegal activities taking place inside a police station, it is the Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) in Charge of the police station that should be taken to task immediately. Past experiences demonstrate that such ASPs often try to interfere with proper inquiries so as to exonerate the police officers against alleged charges.

Despite that this issue was taken up for debate in Parliament yesterday on 20th September 2016, where the Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayaka stated that a comprehensive investigation will be conducted on the death of the youth in Police custody in Pussellawa, Nuwara Eliya, the AHRC urges the government not to limit such pledges to mere such pronouncements.

Although at the same time, the AHRC welcomes the proposal to initiate a programme to install CCTV systems to the cells in all police stations as a positive step in preventing such recurrences in future, the AHRC notes with concern the lack of a comprehensive strategy for overall justice sector reforms in the country and urges the government to work towards such a comprehensive programme instead of ad hoc and piecemeal approaches to a pertinent issue such as police reforms.

The AHRC thus urges the Government, the IGP and all other relevant institutions such as the National Police Commission, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and also the recently appointed Torture Committee under the National Human Rights Plan for Action, to demonstrate where they stand, and to take concrete. We ask again; is the same old story of a cover up to be repeated, or will the people witness a proper inquiry conducted into the death of a person at a police station?

Please join us in urging the authorities to conduct an impartial and a comprehensive inquiry into the death of Raviraj Kavichandran in police custody and to provide reparation to the victim’s family, and to prosecute those proven to be responsible for the death, including the Assistant Superintendent and the Senior Superintendent of Police in the line of command.
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SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ………………..,

SRI LANKA: A call for a comprehensive inquiry into the death of a person in custody at Pussellawa Police

Name of the victim: Raviraj Kavichandran
Alleged perpetrators: Pusselawa Police
Date of incident: 18th September 2016
Place of incident: Pussellawa Police Station , Nuwara Eliya

I am writing with deep concern, with regard to the death of Raviraj Kavichandran a resident of Pussellawa who according to the police had allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself on the night of his arrest at the Pussellawa Police station on 18th Septemeber 2016. Raviraj’s family members claim witness to him being beaten up at the police station and that he died as a result of the abuse. He had been arrested on Saturday 17th September 2016, following a court order. However, despite repeated appeals by his family members and mass protests by residents no proper investigation has been launched into his death.

According information the suspect who is a resident of Rosland Estate in Pussellawa is a toddy tapper. He had been ordered by court on an earlier occasion to engage in community work for being in possession of toddy without a permit. According to police, he was again taken into custody on the 17th as he had failed to honour this court order. The next morning Kaviraj’s family members had received news that he died in the Pussellawa Hospital and the cause of his death was that he had hung himself with the shirt he was wearing in the police cell.

According to the relatives of the deceased, he was assaulted by the officers at the time of the arrest, and one of his brothers’ states that he saw his brother being assaulted inside the police station. His relatives claim that he died as a result of the police beating.

On the night of the 18th September , following the protests, the Police Headquarters issued a statement stating that a sub inspector and police constable , on duty on the night of Kaviraj’s death have been suspended over the incident, due to lack of supervision.

Although the police claim that the man hung himself with his own t-shirt, and committed suicide, the protesters did not believe the police story.

I therefore urge the government and your good offices to intervene in the conduct an impartial and a comprehensive inquiry into the death of Raviraj Kavichandran in police custody, and comprehensive forensic examination of the victim’s body by an independent judicial medical officer and to provide reparation to the victim’s family, and to prosecute those proven to be responsible for the death, including the Assistant Superintendent and the Senior Superintendent of Police in the line of command.

Yours sincerely,

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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.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission ([email protected])

2 Responses to “SRI LANKA: A call for a comprehensive inquiry into the death of a person in custody at Pussellawa Police”

  1. Christie Says:

    My thoughts are with the grieved relatives and friends. RIP.

    But my concern is ASIAN HUMAN rIGHTS SHEER SILENCE WHEN IT COMES TO THE DEATH OF OTHER PERSONS DUE TO sTATE VIOLLENCE IN THE ISLAND NATION.

  2. Christie Says:

    This is another institution funded by Indians and Indian colonial parasites and vermin from a rented suite in Hong Kong. This is evident from their actions regarding Kashmir.

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