SRI LANKA: Man killed by police officers in the Headquarters of the Gampaha Police Station
Posted on March 13th, 2017
ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME Extra-judicial killing; impunity; rule of law; justice
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information about Mr. Sunanda Dias, a resident of No: 31, Niwandama, Ja-Ella, in the Gampaha District. He was extra-judicially killed on 04 November 2016, by officers attached to the Gampaha Police Station. No proper investigation has been carried out as yet. This is justice denied for the victim and his family. In this case we see illustrated the extraordinary collapse of the rule of law in the country. And, the State’s policy of combating crime by killing suspects has encouraged police officers to kill with impunity.
Information has been received by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) about Mr. Sunanda Dias, a resident of No: 31, Niwandama, Ja-Ella, in Gampaha District. He was extra-judicially killed on 04 November 2016, by officers attached to the Gampaha Police Station.
On 2nd November 2016, a team of police officers arrested Sunanda between 12.30pm-1pm at his home. After being arrested, he was severely tortured by the officers in front of his relatives and neighbors. Then he was brought to the Headquarters of the Gampaha Police Station by car. While he was being tortured, Sunanda’s mother, Ms. K R Dhammika, pleaded with the officers not to torture him. But they did not respond to her and continued their assault.
In the evening, a friend of Sunanda, Mr. Muthuwadige Thushan Anuja Pushpakuma (NIC No: 881403340V) of No: 80, Kadirana North, Deman Handiya, Katana went to the police station to visit him while he was detained in a cell. Anuja learned about the incident from Sunanda’s mother. Although Anuja brought several food items and a milk pack for the victim, he refused all foods–and drank only few sips of milk.
On the third evening, Sunanda’s mother informed Anuja that her son had been admitted to the Gampaha General Hospital. The message was delivered by a police officer via his mobile phone. At 6pm Anuja, visited him in the hospital. He saw his friend in Ward No: 7 on the 5th floor. Anuja observed that one hand was cuffed to the hospital bed and a saline solution was continuously dripping. His friend was seriously ill and not able to get up from the bed or move on his own. Several police officers were guarding him. Although Anuja tried to provide some food for his friend, the officers would not allow it.
In the evening of the same day, Anuja again went to the hospital. This time, Sunanda tried to talk to him. He needed to go to the washroom to relieve himself. A police officer holding Sunanda from one side, and Anuja holding him from the other side, brought him to the washroom. They partially lifted and carried him to the washroom, as he could not walk by himself. Here he removed the bed sheet which was wrapped around his body. Then Anuja saw how his both knees were swollen. Sunanda told him that he was severely tortured at the police station. Officers beat him with poles. Anuja also observed a large number of contusions on the victim’s back. Sunanda explained to him that all these were the result of the severe torture he suffered. The horror, stress and pain he was under, made him breakdown and cry in front of Anuja.
On the 4th morning at 5.30am, Anuja again went to the hospital to visit. But Sunanda was not in the same bed. Then Anuja inquired from other patients the whereabouts of his friend. Finally, the ward nurse said that Sunanda was brought to the National Hospital of Colombo (NHSL) after he had fallen. Anuja went to Sunanda’s parents and informed them of the situation. Later, the victim’s sister, J B Suwendani Dias asked the police how her brother was at this time. The officer abruptly informed her that Sunanda was dead.
At 12.30pm, Sunanda’s father, J B Gunawardana and Anuja visited the NHSL. Several prison officials approached, informing them that while Sunanda was being treated he jumped out the window and ran along the first floor. It was at this point that he was brought to the NHSL after a hospital attendant noticed the victim lying on the floor. Anuja vehemently refuted this explanation. First, he said that as Sunanda was handcuffed how could he get out of bed? Second, he mentioned that the victim’s both knees were swollen and he was unable to move. So how could he walk or even run. Anuja and the father both accused the officers of killing Sunanda by pushing him out the window to cover up the evidence of their torture. The officers then left .
Anuja was called to give evidence before the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) before they conducted a post mortem examination. He testified before the coroner at the death inquest. Before he gave evidence, a police officer from the Gampaha Police Station threatened him, warning him not to give evidence and not to reveal what he witnessed. But he reiterated that he would testify to what he witnessed throughout the whole process from after his friend’s arrest until his death.
Anuja and his family members declared that Sunanda was illegally arrested, detained, severely tortured and finally extra-judicially killed—all to cover up evidence of torture by the police. They seek justice for him.
According to the Constitution, law enforcement authorities are bound to protect the right to life of its citizens and their constitutionally enshrined rights. Sri Lanka is a country governed under a democratic framework. It is obligated to support the Judiciary, impose the rule of law, and protect the civil liberties of all its citizens. Extra-judicial killing of its citizens by police officers has become an unrestricted norm throughout the country.
Any incident in which a policeman kills a person should be investigated promptly—without delay and efficiently. However, in this instance, the State has not shown any interest in investigating the killing and bringing the responsible police officers before the courts. For too many years there has been no responsibility taken by Sri Lankan police commanders. It is the supervisory officers that should be held primarily responsible for the killings perpetrated by officers under their command.
The Asian Human Rights Commission has reported numerous cases of arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and extrajudicial of citizens at the hands of the police. These are behaviors that are illegal under international and local law but have been taking place in all police stations over the past twenty years. It has been observed by the Asian Human Rights Commission that the Sri Lankan police have used torture as an instrument to terrorize innocent persons and harass the public. Furthermore, the police throughout the country are implementing a policy of eliminating criminals by arresting them, by killing them without ever producing them in a court of law.
There is a lack of protection for those who are willing to take up cases against abusive police officers and State authorities. This means that the law continues to be employed as a tool by the police to harass people. By undermining civilian respect for the law and encouraging impunity, a long-term toll falls on the victims, their families and on society as a whole.
The Asian Human Rights Commission has continuously exposed the way witnesses and victims are harassed and, on some occasions even killed to suppress justice. The AHRC has urged the State of Sri Lanka to draw up and adopt a new law for a witness protection scheme.
Please write to the authorities listed below expressing your concern about this case. Request an immediate investigation into the allegations of extra-judicial killings by police, and the prosecution of those proven to be responsible under the country’s criminal law protocol. All officers involved must be subject to an internal investigation for breach of Departmental Police orders. The AHRC will write a separate letter to the Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions in this regard.