SRI LANKA: Panwila Police illegally arrest, detain and tortured an innocent civilian

By William Gomes

Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has issued an urgent appeal stating that police officers attached to the Panwila Police Station have illegally arrested, detained and tortured an innocent civilian.

He was later released on police bail without being produced before a Magistrate.

AHRC said Mr. Jesu Andrew (28) of Holankanda, Mudulkelle in the district of Kandy is married and his wife is expecting a baby. Andrew is engaged in a small business in the Wattegama area.

While earlier on 23 August 2010 Andrew was returning home from Wattegama to Mudulkelle by bus. Since there was a crowd Andrew helped a girl in the bus to carry her bag as he knew her previously from his school days.

At Maussa, the bus halted as the road was not passable so the girl collected her bag, got into a three-wheeler and proceeded home while Andrew also returned to his home.

In the evening at around 5pm the girl, along with her family members and police officers from the Panwila Police Station came and arrested Andrew saying that he had stolen jewelry from her bag. Andrew was then taken to the Panwila Police Station where he was tortured severely by the officers.

First, Andrew was slapped in front of the girl who made the complaint at the moment he was taken to the police station. Then, he was stripped naked. He was forced to lie down on a bench and was beaten severely with a pole over various parts of his body. The officers also rubbed chilli powder on his genitalia.

While he was being tortured the officers tried to force a confession from him that he had stolen the jewelry. However, when he refused to plead guilty he was thrown into a police cell and beaten again.

According to AHRC on 25 August Andrew's uncle arrived at the police station and offered a bottle of Arrack (liquor) to the police officers to get Andrew released. Subsequently Andrew was released later that day on police bail after having been illegally detained at the police station since 23 August. Prior to his release he was forced to sign a document written in Sinhala, the contents of which he had no knowledge of, as he cannot read or write Sinhalese. The police officers, when asked, refused to read or explain the document to him. After his release due to the pain in his joints he was treated at Panwila Hospital on 26 August.

Asian Human Rights Commission has reported innumerable cases of arbitrarily arrest, torturing while in detention by the Sri Lankan police which are illegal under international and local law which have taken place at different police stations in the country over the past few years.

The Constitution of Sri Lanka has guaranteed the right freedom from torture. According to the Article 11 of the Constitution no person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Asian Human Rights Commission has already written separate letters to the Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture, on this regard.