SRI LANKA: Inefficient police investigation into murder of transgender man
Posted on September 25th, 2017

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION-URGENT APPEAL PROGRAMME

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission has received information regarding the case of Sanath Kumara Wijethilaka (34) of Dambulla Headquarters Police Division, who was killed in the early hours of 5 September 2017. Sanath was a transgender man. His dead body was lying on the ground of a private van park in front of the Dambulla General Hospital. Initial police investigations and the post mortem examinations concluded the fact that the victim was murdered by clubbing with blunt weapons. However, the police have been lethargic in completing their investigation and bringing the murderers to court.

Case Narrative:

Sanath Kumara Wijethilaka (34) of Kalundewa, Walgamwewa, Dambulla, is a permanent resident in the Matale District. Sanath was born as male, but as he grew older, he started developing female attitudes and behavioral patterns.

As an adultescent, Sanath started dressing as a woman, and frequently went out like that, even in Dambulla Town. He was well known to the residents of the area for his behavior. The people engaged in commercial activities and the business owners in the city were aware of him as a transgender person. Sanath was a very peaceful and innocent adult. He was never accused of involvement with any crime, or harming any person or property throughout his life.

However, there were several incidents when he was arrested by the police and produced in court due to his suspicious behavior and his different manner of dress. On all these occasions however, respectful judicial officers have taken steps to release him with immediate effect after learning the truth.

On 5 September 2017, Sanath was found lying on the ground of the private van parking in front of the Damubulla General Hospital in Damubulla Town. The incident was reported to the Dambulla Headquarters Police Station by the residents of the area, and Sanath was brought to the Dambulla General Hospital.

After initial investigations by the Dambulla Headquarters Police Station, the police believe Sanath was beaten to death; several clubs that were used in the killing were seen around the crime scene. Furthermore, police said that pools of blood, believed to be Sanath’s, and an umbrella, were also found in the vicinity.

Meanwhile, Sanath’s sister said she received a telephone call at 3 a.m. on that day, from Sanath’s mobile. The caller shouted at her in abusive language, and informed her that they have killed her brother. She mentioned that she could not identify the caller by his voice.

Later police informed the media that Sanath was beaten to death by an unknown individual or a group of persons at 2 a.m.

Even 18 days after the incident, there is no efficient or credible investigation into Sanath’s murder.

This case of murdering an innocent transgender man is related to the insecure state of Sri Lanka’s transgender community. There are no laws safeguarding the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons. The government should enact such laws, and take steps to ensure that the rights of all Sri Lankans are upheld, particularly those of marginalized communities.

Suggested Action:

Please send letters to the authorities listed below expressing your concern about this case and requesting an immediate investigation into Sanath’s murder, as well as into the allegations of inefficient police action in the matter. Those found responsible for the murder must be prosecuted under the law. Similarly, those officers found guilty of shirking their duties and not upholding the law must also be punished. Further, please also request the National Police Commission (NPC) and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to have a special investigation into the malpractices of the police officers for abusing their powers.

To support this case, please click here:

 SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ________,

SRI LANKA: Inefficient police investigation into murder of transgender man

Name of victim: Sanath Kumara Wijethilaka (34) of Kalundewa, Walgamwewa, Dambulla

Alleged perpetrators: 1) an unknown individual or a group of people
2) Police officers attached to the Dambulla Headquarters Police Station

Date of incident: 5 September 2017

Place of incident: Dambulla HeadquartersPolice Division

According to the information that I have received Sanath Kumara Wijethilaka (34) of Kalundewa, Walgamwewa, Dambulla, is a permanent resident in the Matale District. Sanath was born as male, but as he grew older, he started developing female attitudes and behavioral patterns.

As an adultescent, Sanath started dressing as a woman, and frequently went out like that, even in Dambulla Town. He was well known to the residents of the area for his behavior. The people engaged in commercial activities and the business owners in the city were aware of him as a transgender person. Sanath was a very peaceful and innocent adult. He was never accused of involvement with any crime, or harming any person or property throughout his life.

However, there were several incidents when he was arrested by the police and produced in court due to his suspicious behavior and his different manner of dress. On all these occasions however, respectful judicial officers have taken steps to release him with immediate effect after learning the truth.

On 5 September 2017, Sanath was found lying on the ground of the private van parking in front of the Damubulla General Hospital in Damubulla Town. The incident was reported to the Dambulla Headquarters Police Station by the residents of the area, and Sanath was brought to the Dambulla General Hospital.

After initial investigations by the Dambulla Headquarters Police Station, the police believe Sanath was beaten to death; several clubs that were used in the killing were seen around the crime scene. Furthermore, police said that pools of blood, believed to be Sanath’s, and an umbrella, were also found in the vicinity.

Meanwhile, Sanath’s sister said she received a telephone call at 3 a.m. on that day, from Sanath’s mobile. The caller shouted at her in abusive language, and informed her that they have killed her brother. She mentioned that she could not identify the caller by his voice.

Later police informed the media that Sanath was beaten to death by an unknown individual or a group of persons at 2 a.m.

Even 18 days after the incident, there is no efficient or credible investigation into Sanath’s murder.

This case of murdering an innocent transgender man is related to the insecure state of Sri Lanka’s transgender community. There are no laws safeguarding the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons. The government should enact such laws, and take steps to ensure that the rights of all Sri Lankans are upheld, particularly those of marginalized communities.

I request the intervention of your good offices to ensure that the authorities open an immediate investigation into Sanath’s murder, as well as the lethargic approach of the police officers in the case. The officers involved in not properly investigating the crime and bringing the culprits before the courts without delay, should also be subject to internal investigations for breach of Police Department orders.

Yours sincerely,

———————
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

  1. Mr. PujithJayasundara
    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])

 

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