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Innocent Tamil man tortured and put into a leech filled pond by police

" The officer who had the tree branch started to beat Devaraj on his back, hands and buttocks. Devaraj repeatedly told him that he know nothing about any of those things. At that point the other officer pushed him into the pond in which there were leeches and prickly plants and held his head under the water. The plants in the pond were 'Kohila' (Lasia spinosa) which have a great many spiny thorns......
(January 28, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Mr. Anthony Ayya Devaraj was illegally arrested by police officers attached to the Matugama Police Station in the district of Kaluthara. He was primarily asked to help the police officers find three suspects while he was working in a paddy field. Though he was able to show the officers the place they were seeking, as he was not able to find the suspects or their belongings, the police officers tortured the man. After beating the victim while his wrists were cuffed behind his back they pushed him into a pond in which there were leeches and prickly plants. As Devaraj was handcuffed he was unable to protect himself against either the thorns or the leeches that attached themselves to him. Finally the police took him to the Matugama Police Station where they filled fabricated charges against him. As Devaraj complaint to higher authorities about the unjust treatment they started to threaten h im and he was forced to withdraw his complaints. It is a common occurrence in Sri Lanka for the police to arrest innocent persons who are tortured and manhandled and this case is yet another illustration of the exceptional collapse of the rule of law in the country.

According to Mr. Anthony Ayya Devaraj (44) of No: 35, Sirikandura Estate, Badugama, Matugama, he is an estate labourer, married and a father of three. On 7 June 2010, around 9 am, he was spreading pesticide over a paddy field where works as a labourer. Two persons came by a motor bicycle in civilian clothes him and ask the way to Sirikandura Estate where they were hoping to find three suspects. Devaraj had not seen either of them before. They told him they were from police. Then without warning or cause they cuffed Devaraj's wrists behind his back and went in the direction of Sirikandura Estate, forcefully taking him along. On the way one of the officers broke off the branch of an Alstonia tree. Then they proceeded to the Estate and arrested a man called Mr. Manikkam Sandanam who they accused of distributing illicit liquor.

Then the police officers told Devaraj that they wanted to arrest two more persons. They went to place called Galkanda taking Sandanam and Devaraj along with them.

The officers told the two prisoners that there were three persons engaged in producing illicit liquor and asked both of them to show the place where it was being manufactured and where the utensils were kept. Devaraj told them that he know nothing about it.

The officer who had the tree branch started to beat Devaraj on his back, hands and buttocks. Devaraj repeatedly told him that he know nothing about any of those things. At that point the other officer pushed him into the pond in which there were leeches and prickly plants and held his head under the water. The plants in the pond were 'Kohila' (Lasia spinosa) which have a great many spiny thorns. He held Devaraj's head under the water for some time and when he was released he realised that there were leeches attached to his body. He could not remove the leeches as his wrists were cuffed keeping behind his back. While keeping him in the water the officers repeatedly questioned him to reveal the places where the properties belong to illicit liquor producers could be found. Devaraj repeatedly told them he did not know anything. When he begged the officers to remove the leeches they refused to assist him. Then the police officers slapped the Devaraj and warned him that they will f ile a fabricated charge for possession of five barrels used for the manufacture of illicit liquor.

Then police officers took Sandanam and Devaraj to the Matugama Police Station. At the police station police officers removed the handcuffs and it was only then that Devaraj was able to remove the leeches.

He was not given any food that day and in the afternoon his wife and the son came to visit him at around 3 pm. Then he was able to reveal to them how he was assaulted.

At around 7 pm police officer Balachandran came to the cell and informed Devaraj that as other police officers had revealed that Devaraj has not committed any crimes they were filling a charge of possession of two bottles of illicit liquor instead of the earlier threat of possession of five barrels.

The next day at around 8 am the police officer who tortured Devaraj came to him and informed him that they are releasing Devaraj but when he appeared before the Magistrate he should plead guilty otherwise they would file many fabricated charges against him. Further he told that they police had more than sufficient evidence in the way of barrels to use against him. Then he said that Devaraj should not retain a lawyer and spend money, that the officer could arrange a community service for Devaraj instead of punishment if he pleaded guilty. Further he warned that if he did not follow this advice he would 'look after him' which is a very common practice of police officers in Sri Lanka to threaten the innocents.

Then another officer asked the name and the addressed of Devaraj and forced him to sign a document which was not read or explained to him. At the same time he took Devaraj's finger prints on another small paper on which there were some notes as well. Finally his wife arrived, signed for the police bail and Devaraj was allowed to go home.

Devaraj made written complaints to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), National Police Commission (NPC), and Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Kalutara and to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. But none of these officers or institutions has made inquiries.

Later on 28 July 2010 he received a telephone call to his mobile from 072 9476115 and was warned by the caller who identified himself as a police officer named Mahinda of the Matugama police that he would be rearrested and that further charges would be filed against him unless he withdraws the complaints that he made to the higher authorities. Presently Devaraj is in fear of his life.

He narrated the manner in which he was tortured and the violation of his rights by the police officer in the video here.

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

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'. Article 12 (1) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka has guaranteed the right to equality for all persons as stated that 'all persons are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law'. Further Article 13 (1) has stated that 'No person shall be arrested except according to procedure established by law. Any person arrested shall be informed of the reason for his arrest'.

Furthermore, Sri Lanka has signed and ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). Nevertheless the lack of protection offered to those who are willing to take cases against abusive police officers and the state authorities, means that the law is under-used continues to be employed as a tool by the police to harass people. This not only takes a long-term toll on the victim and his or her family, but on society as a whole, by undermining of civilian respect for the law and encouraging impunity.

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