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The Law In Their Dangerous Hands

By Waruni Karunarathne-Monday, October 20, 2014


There had been a spate of incidents where suspects had been shot dead or killed
accidentally, while fleeing from police custody or during a confrontation with the police.
Recently, the suspect wanted in connection with the Kolonnawa- Sinhapura murders
was shot dead while trying to escape police custody. nother suspect who was
arrested in connection with the killing of an eight-year-old girl in kmeemana had
drowned while trying to flee from the police. There is a long list of similar incidents that
had taken place in the recent past, and many had !uestioned how the suspects had
managed to escape if they had been handcuffedwhile at the same time they were
being guarded by the police,as well.
"owe#er despite such incidents taking place regularly, the general public had noted
that the police had not taken necessary precautions to pre#ent such incidents from
recurring.
n absolute human right
$ommenting on the issue, "uman Rights lawyer, %r.
&rathiba'ahanamahewa,told The Sunday (eader that, nobody has the right or the
authority to punish a suspect) it is only a $ourt of law that can decide on the
punishment that has to be meted out if a suspect is found guilty. *urther, e#ery suspect
is deemed as being innocent until s+he is pro#ed guilty in a $ourt of law. ,-nder rticle
.. of the ./01 $onstitution, all the citi2ens of Sri (anka are granted freedom from
torture and degrading punishment. 3t is an absolute human right of the suspect to be
free of torture while in police custody,4 he added. "e pointed out that rigorous
punishment, though ordered, is not carried out in prisons, worldwide.
%r. 'ahanamahewa went on to say that Sri (anka had ratified the 3nternational
$o#enant for $i#il and &olitical Rights 53$$&R6 in the ./17s and the country had also
ratified the $on#ention against Torture and 8ther $ruel, 3nhuman or %egrading
Treatment or &unishment, which was passed as law in .//9. ccording to him, if there
is e#idence of torture, the 83$ of the police station concerned will be held liable, and
can be charged in the "igh $ourt. "e also said if police officers are found guilty of
carrying out torture, they, as indi#iduals, would be liable to pay compensation to those
who had been sub:ected to torture. ccording to him, the laws are there to protect the
rights of a suspect from cruel punishment, and be free of torture. "e e;plained that
anybody has the right to his or her life e#en if he or she is suspected of ha#ing
committed murder.
There ha#e been many incidents of torture and incidents of death while in custody. 3t
is necessary to pre#ent such incidents from happening rather than charging the police
after the incidents had taken place,4 %r. 'ahanamahewasaid. 3n order to pre#ent such
incidents, necessary precautions should be taken, and the police should be trained
how to treat suspects at the time of arrest, and when they are in police custody. The
83$ of the station should also continuously monitor police sergeants, he further said.
&resident, Bar ssociation of Sri (anka 5BS(6, -pul<ayasuriya, told The Sunday
(eader that, there is a pattern of incidents with regard to accidental deaths of suspects
while in police custody. ccording to him, the police continue to make e;cuses that
those incidents are accidental or una#oidable. ,There are #ideos of some incidents
that had been taken while the police had been firing at suspects. But no action had
been taken against the police,4 he said. ccording to him, members of the security
forces ha#e created a culture of impunity, and under the current conte;t, the credibility
of the police is in !uestion. With reference to the incidents in the recent past, he said
there is hardly any credence to what the police say. ,(aws do not seem to apply to the
police,4 he noted.
*amilies ha#e no say
<ayasuriyapointed out that families of the suspects who had been killed by the police
hardly ha#e a say as the go#ernment and the law enforcement authorities appear to
be against them. ,When the ttorney =eneral and the <udiciary ignore their claims,
what can innocent people do> There ha#e been reports of incidents of murders inside
prisons,4 <ayasuriya said, and added that those at the top of go#ernance appear to be
tolerant when the police #iolate laws. ,Statutory authorities are powerless in the
country,4 he opined.
'eanwhile, &olice Spokesperson, SS& :ithRohana,speaking to The Sunday (eader,
said the 'agistrate?s$ourt hears all the incidents in relation to suspects who had been
killed while in police custody or while fleeing police custody. The $ourt would decide
on the nature of the crime @ whether such incidents are :ustifiable homicides or not
after assessing the e#idence produced, including medical e#idence pro#ided by the
<udicial 'edical 8fficer 5<'86. $iting e;amples, SS& Rohana said se#en police
officers who were charged o#er the death of the Kandekatiya suspect had been
remanded after the $ourt had gi#en its #erdict, whereas the death of the main suspect
of the Teldeniya--dudumbara incident was deemed by the $ourt as a :ustifiable
homicide.
%efending the police, SS& :ithRohana e;plained that many such incidents had taken
place while the police had been trying to reco#er weapons the suspects had used to
commit crimes or while police officers were trying to enforce the law and obtain
e#idence. ccording to him, se#eral incidents had been declared as :ustifiable
homicides by the $ourt of law. "e added that, the police are not entitled to pay
compensation to the families of the suspects who died while in custody, but the
families are at the liberty to file a fundamental rights case against the police if they so
desire.
Some of the recent incidents
-September A1, A7.9B "iran %arshana alias Kalu $hooty from Kolonnawa-
Wellampitiya, a criminal wanted for many crimes including three cases of
murder was shot dead after trying to escape from police custody.
-September ./, A7.9B =amini Kumara Samaraweera alias Kaluwa who was
arrested in connection with the killing of an eight-year-old girl in kmeemana
died while trying to flee from police custody.
-September C, A7.9B (alitha Kushalya a.k.a. Kudu (alitha, a suspected drug
dealer was shot dead near the 8ruwala "ospital in thurugiriya while
attempting to flee from the police.
-'ay .1, A7.9B Tharuka Dilan 5EA6 who was arrested o#er the killing of a
&olice $onstable attached to the Kurunegala &olice died while in the custody
of the $3%.
-'ay 1, A7.9B &.". Sadun 'allinga 5.06 who was arrested o#er alleged
treasure hunting died while in the custody of the Badulla &olice.
-pril C, A7.9B 9A-year-old person who was arrested for dri#ing under the
influence of alcohol died while in the custody of the nuradhapura &olice.
-'arch .., A7.9B n alleged underworld figure called &aalan-kada "een
'alli who was arrested o#er the killing of a businessman in Ratnapura died
while in police custody.
-<uly C, A7.EB 'ohammed 2mir alias 'ama2mi was shot dead while the
suspect was being escorted by a group of ST* personnel to unco#er a
weapons cache.
-Do#ember AA, A7.EB The key suspect in the murder of a &olice $onstable
and his wife in Kamburupitiya, was shot dead when he was taken to a
hideout in search of weapons.
-Do#ember AF, A7.EB Two more suspects arrested o#er the killings of the
same &olice $onstable and his wife in Kamburupitiya, had drowned after
reportedly :umping into the %enagama Ri#er, while trying to escape from the
police custody.
-September AF, A7.EB Gakkala rachchige riyadasa alias Kapila of
Walasmulla who was arrested o#er an alleged robbery, died while in police
custody.

$ommercial se; worker e;poses nature of Sri (anka &olice


%uring the last two weeks, a #ideo showing a policeman beating a young
woman on a public road in Ratnapura, Sri (anka, has generated heated
discussion in the media. Reactions shown in the media and in social media
such as facebook show public contempt for the beha#ior and conduct of the
police.
What is near comic is the manner in which the police spokesman reacted to
the #ideo and the subse!uent de#elopments. When the #ideo was first
shown, the spokesman?s reaction was that as the #ideo is unreliable no
action could be taken on this matter. s media heat grew, the spokesman
declared that the particular policeman seen in the #ideo beating the young
woman with a wire has been identified.
Sometime later, the same spokesman announced that this particular officer
has been interdicted. Thereafter, the police spokesman?s repeated message
was that a police team has been deployed in trying to identify and obtain a
statement from the particular woman concerned, but that she appeared to be
in hiding and therefore, it was not possible to obtain her statement.
While the police spokesman was repeating this story, the woman who was
beaten began to re#eal her ordeal in public. Besides holding a press
conference, she also ga#e an e;clusi#e inter#iew to a local TH channel, and
said that she was a resident of Kanadola in Ratnapura, and that the
particular police sergeant had asked her to come with him to an
inappropriate location on se#eral occasions and when she had refused for
the third time, he plotted re#enge. She re#ealed that the police officer had
assaulted her with a wire while uttering filthy and abusi#e language at her
and he had also kicked her when she fell on the ground.
The police sergeant?s name has now been re#ealed as &.&. Thissera. The
amateur #ideo footage of the incident has been taken by a witness with a
mobile phone, and it has been distributed widely through the social media
making the incident a talking point among Sri (ankans e#erywhere.
What is more shocking is the manner in which se#eral police officers
including a "ead!uarters 3nspector 5"I36 treated the woman after the
incident. =anga, the young woman in#ol#ed in the incident, has re#ealed
how police officers kept her at a police station for se#eral hours, attempting
to get her to agree to be silent about the incident. t one instance, the
policemen offered Rupees E,777 to her.
ll her attempts to ha#e a complaint registered failed. =anga then filed an
application before the Supreme $ourt claiming the #iolation of her rights and
demanding a Rupees C7 million in damages. team of lawyers assisted her.
nd, after filing the fundamental rights application, she held another press
briefing and e;plained her position. She openly told the press that due to
e;treme po#erty she makes a li#ing as a se; worker. %espite enormous
publicity, with photographic e#idence of brutal police assault, to date, the
police sergeant in !uestion has not been arrested or charged with a criminal
offence.
$learly the criminal offence falls under the $T ct Do. AA of .//9. 3n terms
of this ct, any public officer who commits an act of torture can be charged
with an offence punishable with up to 0 years rigorous imprisonment and+or
a Rupees .7,777 fine. The photographic e#idence establishes that there is
e#idence to charge the police sergeant under this law. Besides photographic
e#idence, there is also e#idence of the #ictim and the e;istence of se#eral
other eyewitnesses.
Posted by Thavam