US report slams the police

An annual human rights report released by the US State Department has slammed the police in Sri Lanka for alleged torture and abuse of people while in detention.

The Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2012 states that in Sri Lanka the law makes torture a punishable offense and mandates a sentence of not less than seven years’ and not more than 10 years’ imprisonment.

However, the report says there were credible reports that police and security forces tortured and abused citizens. The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) allows for confessions from torture to be admitted as evidence.

For example, on January 26, the Kurunegala High Court convicted the former Polpithigama Police Officer in Charge W.E. Wijeratne under the Torture Act and sentenced him to two years’ rigorous imprisonment. The court also ordered him to pay compensation to Sujith Priyantha for arresting and torturing him in 2003 after the then seven-year-old stole from a shop. In another example cited in the report, on July 14, police beat Dilshan Suran Janz allegedly because he refused to withdraw an earlier complaint of police brutality.

The report also claimed that in the east and the north, military intelligence and other security personnel, sometimes allegedly working with paramilitaries, were responsible for the documented and undocumented detention of civilians suspected of LTTE connections. Detention reportedly was followed by interrogation that sometimes included mistreatment or torture. There were reports that detainees were released with a warning not to reveal information about their arrest or detention, under the threat of rearrest or death.

“There were reports that individual cases of gender-based violence perpetrated by members of the security forces occurred in areas with heavy security force presence, but others stated that military officials were responsive to reports of such incidents and showed a willingness to prosecute the offenders. Some observers suggested that there was reluctance by victims to report such incidents in northern and eastern areas where security forces were prevalent. There were a number of credible reports of sexual violence against women where the alleged perpetrators were armed forces personnel, police officers, army deserters, or members of militant groups. A number of women did not lodge official complaints due to fear of retaliation,” the US report said.

It also said that the reintegration of former combatants released from rehabilitation remained challenging due to intensive surveillance by the military, social stigma (some people were afraid to associate themselves with ex-combatants who regularly had to report to the army), employment difficulties, and psychological trauma. Several released ex-combatants reported torture or mistreatment, including sexual harassment, by government officials while in rehabilitation centers.

It also said that although the number of killings associated with progovernment paramilitary groups declined from previous years, there were persistent reports that the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), led by Minister of Social Services and Social Welfare Douglas Devananda, engaged in intimidation, extortion, corruption, and violence against civilians in Jaffna.

It cited an example where on March 4, EPDP member Kanthasuwamy Jagadeswaran sexually abused and killed 13-year-old Jesudasan Lakshini. On March 16, the Kayts Magistrate Court remanded Jagadeswaran to the Jaffna Prison. (Colombo Gazette)

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