The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) is gravely concerned, that the Bill published in the Gazette on the 12th of August 2016, proposing to amend the Criminal Procedure Code, will deprive suspects arrested and detained by the Police of access to Attorneys-at-law, prior to the recording their statement, and will adversely impact on the constitutionally guaranteed rights of persons including the citizens of Sri Lanka”
The Bill proposes to introduce a new section 37A to the Criminal procedure Code.
The proposed Section 37A(1) states that “any person who has been arrested and detained in custody, shall have the right to retain and consult on Attorney-at-law of his choice at his own expense, after the recording of his statements in terms of the provisions of subsection (1) of the section 770 and prior to being produced before a Magistrate.”
The Human rights commission noted that although this section purports to give a right to arrested suspects to retain and consult an Attorney at-law, such right is granted only after a statement is recorded from the suspect. Between the time of arrest and until the time of the conclusion of the recording of a statement, the suspects are deprived of access to their Attorneys-at-law.
“The new Bill derogates from the rights already guaranteed by the State under Rules made by the inspector General of Police under the police Ordinance. The Human Rights Commission notes that as a result of a settlement reached in the Supreme Court in a Fundamental Rights Application, the inspector General of Police made rules under the police Ordinance cited as Police (Appearances of Attorneys-at-Law at Police Stations) Rules 2012, recognising the right of a lawyer to represent his/her client at a police station and requiring the officer in charge of the police station to facilitate such representation. These rules effectively recognise the right which all persons including suspects have to access their Attorneys-at-law at any time, including the period immediately after arrest and while being in detention” the commission said in a letter to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremsinghe.
The Human Rights Commission has observed that many instances of torture as well as cruel, inhuman treatment of suspects at police stations occur between the period of arrest and the conclusion of the recording of their statements. As such, the commission says depriving suspects under arrest and detention of access to their lawyers until the conclusions of their statements will result in a greater risk of suspects being subject to torture, cruel and inhuman treatment as well as illegal arrest and detention by errant police officers. (Colombo Gazette)