A man was brutally tortured by Anamaduwa Police on mistaken identity

(March 10, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Mr. Koronchige Nihal De Silva (28) of 'Ashoka Niwasa', Parawakandagama, Anamaduwa in Puttalam district was illegally arrested and severely tortured by police officers attached to the Anamaduwa Police Station on 2 January 2011. He was hung on the beam and beaten with poles by four police officers for 40 minutes. While he was being tortured the police demanded that he confess to stealing Rs. 85,000.00. The victim refused the allegation and pleaded innocent. The next day he was brought before a doctor at the Base Hospital Anamaduwa. Prior to his medical examination the police officers spoke with the doctor in private and as a result of this the doctor did not pay attention to the claims of the victim. The police then produced the victim before the Magistrate of Anamaduwa and at the same hearing produced another suspect who returned the whole amount of the stolen money to the owner in front of the Magistrate. The police later told the victim in private that he was arrested on mistaken identity and insisted that he not instigate any action against them. This case is yet another illustration of the exceptional collapse of the rule of law in the country.

According to the information, Mr. Koronchige Nihal De Silva (28) of 'Ashoka Niwasa', Parawakandagama, Anamaduwa, is married and a farmer by profession.

On 2 January 2011, Nihal received a call while he was working in his paddy field by a caller who identified himself as police sergeant Ranjith of Anamaduwa Police Station. Nihal was instructed to go to the Anamaduwa Police Station immediately. Nihal informed the officer that he was spraying insecticide in the paddy field and that he would come as soon as he completed his work.

After completing his job Nihal went home at around 5.30 pm before going to the police station. When he entered the station he asked for Sergeant Ranjith. The officer at duty asked him to wait as Ranjith was suppose to come shortly. Later police officer Ekanayake informed Sergeant Ranjith by phone that Nihal had come to the station and after 15 minutes Sergeant Ranjith arrived. He in turn asked Nihal to wait until Sub Inspector (SI) Sarath came.

The SI arrived at 7.30 pm and took Nihal to a dark room behind the police station and told him to sit down on a chair. Then SI Sarath called another officer on his phone, and officer Ekanayake also came to the room.

Then SI Sarath ordered Nihal to remove his shirt which he did. Thereafter SI Sarath ordered to him to stand up and then he removed the chair from that place. Then he tied Nihal's wrists behind his back with a piece of cloth. Nihal was then told to stand on the chair which he did out of fear not knowing what was going to happened to him. The officers tied a rope to the cloth binding Nihal's wrists and passed it over the roof beam. At that time Nihal noted that Sergeant Ranjith also came to the scene. Then while both officers Ranjith and Ekanayake hauled on the rope, SI Sarath kicked away the chair so that Nihal was hanging from the beam. Then SI Sarath started to assault Nihal on the soles of his feet continuously for about 20 minutes. While he was beating SI Sarath shouted that Nihal had stolen Rs. 85,000.00 and that Nihal should confess to that.

Nihal told the officers that he had never engaged in any such crime. Further he continuously pleaded with the officers not to beat him. Meanwhile the other officers, Ekanayake and Ranjith also started to assault him one after the other beating the soles of his feet with their batons. After a little while another officer came and told the officers not to continue assaulting his legs as it would leave visible marks. Then they stopped assaulting Nihal and lowered him to the ground.

After about 10 minutes SI Sarath went into the room inside the station and came out with a note book. He told Nihal to accept the crime of steeling Rs. 85,000.00 but Nihal told the officer that he did not steal the money. The officer told Nihal that if he can return the money he could go home. Once again Nihal swore that he did not take the money.

Then officer Ekanayake, SI Sarath and Sergeant Ranjith carried him to a jeep as Nihal was not able to move himself. They started to drive towards Parawakanda where Nihal was living and went into the house of Mr. Lal, another villager while Nihal remained in the jeep. After a while the officers brought Lal to the jeep.

In front of Nihal officer Ekenayake told Lal to look and see what had happened to Nihal and to confess to taking the money before the same thing happened to him. But Lal did not accept anything and told the officers that he had not committed any crime as well.

Then the officers started to drive back towards the police station and on the way SI Sarath stopped the jeep and Nihal noted that he bought two bottles of arrack from a liquor selling shop in Anamaduwa town. When they arrived at the police station Nihal was asked to sit on a bench near the cell.

Thereafter Nihal saw the officers take Lal behind the police station. Shortly after he heard Lal crying out not to be assaulted. Nihal heard the words: ''please don’t assault me, I did not steal the money''. Lal screamed for a long time pleading with the officers and Nihal heard it clearly. After about half an hour later Lal was brought back to where Nihal was sitting and he told Nihal that he had been hung and assaulted. Then the officers locked both Nihal and Lal in the cell.

Several hours later SI Sarath came to the cell and informed both of them that they could be given bail only tomorrow. From that moment until the following morning both were not given any food or drink. At about 7.30 am Ms. Geetha Samanmali, the wife of Nihal brought some bread and milk for him. Then at 2 pm the same day Nihal and Lal were taken into the Anamaduwa Base Hospital by a private vehicle. Before they were referred to the medical officer, the police officers met with the doctor and had a private discussion. When Nihal was brought before the doctor he told him that he had been assaulted by the police but the doctor did not pay any attention and sent him out without examining him.

Later on the same day Nihal and Lal were brought to the Magistrate Court of Anamaduwa and produced before the Magistrate. When he was asked to go into the dock, he noted that one other person was also there. He then heard this person tell the Magistrate that he had committed the crime and was ready to pay back the whole amount of Rs.85, 000.00 to the owner. The money was handed to the owner in front of the Magistrate.

Then Nihal realized that police had found the true criminal who was responsible for the crime.

The police then requested the Magistrate to remand Nihal and Lal without considering their severe condition due to the torture they suffered at the station. The Magistrate remanded all until 6 January 2011 and Nihal and Lal were then brought to the Negombo prison. On the 6 January 2011, Nihal and Lal were taken to Anamaduwa Magistrate's court by a prison bus from Negombo.

When the case was called that day at 5 pm the police informed the Magistrate that they had not brought the case book and pleaded to postpone the case for another occasion. The judge blamed the police officers for not bringing the case book but postponed the case to the following day and Nihal and Lal were send back to the Chilaw Prison.

Nihal states that police officers intentionally prevented the Magistrate by releasing them on bail on that day by not producing official books to keep Nihal in the remand prison to prevent his release while he stay bore signs of torture. In doing so the police officers suppressed his right to have a legal remedy with immediate effect.

On 7 January 2011, Nihal and Lal were taken to the Magistrate Court of Chilaw by another vehicle and released under the condition of bonds of Rs. 3,000.00. The case filled by the Anamaduwa Police in this regard was going under the number BR/02/11/A. Then the case was postponed to 5 May 2011.

When Nihal came home he and his close relatives wanted to proceed with legal action against the police but following the brutal torture he had experienced he was in severe fear for his life.

Meanwhile several police officers who identified them as being attached to the Anamaduwa Police Station came to his home on several occasions and told Nihal that the police had made a mistake and they were ready to pay Rs.10,000.00. Further they told Nihal that they are releasing him from the case on the next court hearing day.

Nihal states that police officers tortured him brutally for no reason. Further he states that police forced him to accept him a crime which he had never committed. Further he states that he was victim of torture and victim of a defective criminal justice system as now police are prosecuting him with a fabricated charge. Further he states that the state of Sri Lanka is responsible for violation of his rights as they are not supervising the law enforcement agencies and they encourage the police officers to arrest innocents and subject them to torture thereby forcing them to accept crimes so that they can summarily finalize criminal investigations. Further he says that state of Sri Lanka should be responsible for all these violations of his rights as the state not initiated an investigation into these malpractices that happened systemically and are practiced at all police station in the country.

Nihal strongly states that he has the right to reparation, redress and compensation for his violations.

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