The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has recommended a set of guidelines to the Police to avoid arbitrary and illegal arrests.
In a letter to the Police, the Chairperson of the HRCSL Dr. Deepika Udagama noted that while appreciating the efforts taken by the Police in the investigation process to identify persons involved in the April 21st attacks, there is a need to ensure that arrests are made only on the basis of reasonable suspicion.
Udagama said that the Commission has recently received a number of complaints alleging illegal arrests.
“Some pertain to arrests made due to cultural misunderstandings or uncertairtly and others due to suspicions expressed by members of the public. For example, one woman had been arrested due to a motif on her dress assumed to be inciteful; in some other instances persons have been arrested for possessing literature in Arabic even before ascertaining the contents; arrests have been made due to public pressure such as an arrest of a trader because some persons feared he had applied a toxic substance to certain garments he was selling. It most instances, the Commission observes that police investigations are conducted after the arrest,” Udagama said.
The HRCSL has recommended that whenever an arrest is to be made there should be solid evidence to form a reasonable suspicion pursuant to proper investigations.
HRCSL says arrests should not be made merely on hearsay and where cultural issues are involved, such as the identification of religious symbols or identifying contents written in an alien language, proper expert opinion should be obtained.
The Commission also notes that where identification of chemical substances or contents of computer files or video footage or the like are involved expert opinion should be obtained.
Udagama says it is vital that the arrests are made not before, but after receiving credible information based on expert analysis and opinion, and on reasonable suspicion.
“We wish to highlight the judgment of the Supreme Court in Naomi Michelle Coleman v. The Hon. Atnmey Gerueral S.C (FR) Application 13612Aru S.C.M 15.11.2017 where Ms. Coleman’s arrest detention and deportation due to displaying a tattoo of the Buddha was held to be violative of Article 12(1) and 13(1) of the Constitution, and resulted in compensation and costs being required to be paid amounting to Rs, 800,000/- . The Supreme Court found that there was no possibility of a public outcry, though the police so alleged, due to the display of such a tattoo,” Udagama said.
Therefore, she urged Acting IGP Chandana Wickremeratne to bring these guidelines to the attention of police personnel with strict instructions requiring compliance. (Colombo Gazette)