17 year boy illegally arrested and severely tortured by the Panwila Police - Sri Lanka Guardian

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

17 year boy illegally arrested and severely tortured by the Panwila Police

(August 20, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Palle Gedara Srinath Saliya Jayaratne (17) surrendered himself to the Panvilla police as he had been accused of theft. After consulting a lawyer and receiving assurances from the police that he would not be ill-treated he accompanied his parents to the police station. At the station he and his parents were verbally abused by the officers. They held the child and severely tortured him before taking him back to the village where they told the assembled villagers that he was a thief and assaulted him again in broad daylight. This case is yet another illustration of the exceptional brutality of the police that have no other means to conduct investigations other than torturing a confession out of an innocent person.

CASE NARRATIVE:

According to the information received by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Palle Gedara Srinath Saliya Jayaratne is a boy of 17 years and a resident of No: 53/10, Glasstown, Angammana, Panwila in the district of Kandy. He sat for the General Certificate of Education (G.C.E.) Ordinary Level in 2010 from Devalegammedda School, following which he found employment at a farm in Colombo on the 28 June 2011.

Two police officers of Panwila Police Station, namely the Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of the crime branch, Inspector of Police (IP) Ruwanthilaka and another officer, Jayasundara visited his home and inquired about Saliya from his parents, who replied that he was not at home. Then the Police officers told them that a cassette radio has been stolen from Devalegammedda School.

Later, the parents had come to know this incident from the villagers as well. As Saliya was not available at the home, the officers left a telephone number and advised the parents to tell their son to speak to the police. The parents conveyed this message to Saliya by phone.

On 2 July 2011, Saliya came home at about 12 noon to attend the funeral of his uncle at Anuradhapura. He made a call to the Panwila Police Station and inquired as to why they came in search of him. The officers replied that they wanted his assistance. The same day at about 6 pm, he called the principal of the school and told him that he had been named in connection to a theft. During this call the principal told him that he had not mentioned 'Saliya Putha's (Son Saliya's name) name to the police.

At 2.30 pm on the 3 July 2011, he went to meet Mr. Saman Ratnayake, Attorney-at-Law, with his parents and told him that he was innocent and did not commit this theft. The lawyer telephoned the police station stating that he was sending Saliya with his parents to the police and that they should not assault him. The police officer who took the call duly promised not to assault Saliya. The parents were advised by the lawyer to take Saliya to the police station at 9 am on following day.

Accordingly the next at about 9 am Saliya was produced to the police by his parents. Then the police officers IP Ruwanthilaka and Jayasundara scolded him using obscene language. Saliya told them that he learnt his Sinhala Alphabet from this school and he never robbed anything and that he was innocent. He further said his younger sister attends this same school. Then, the police officers scolded the parents and told them not to come between them and the child. Then, they took him and told him to sit on a chair. They then made a call to the principal and requested him to send the letter which is said to have been written by a 12-year-old student.

Shortly thereafter, a teacher named Bandara produced that letter to the police. Even this teacher told Saliya's parents that there was no evidence or information implicating Saliya in this letter. Then, the parents were removed from the room. However, before they were forced out Saliya's mother said she will not leave the place until she knew what was going to happen to her son. Outside the room she then, heard Saliya crying and the sound of assault. When she tried to enter the room she was obstructed by the police.

After some time they were told that Saliya had fainted. The parents went to a nearby shop and brought a bottle of cool drink and some snacks, thinking that the child was hungry. When they returned that found that Saliya had been placed in a cell. They gave him the drink and the food which he could not eat and it was then that he told them he had been assaulted.

At about 2.30 pm the parents went home. At 5.30 pm the police officers took Saliya to his village, and introduced him to the villagers as the thief who broke into the school. They then assaulted him in front of the villagers. Unable to bear the pain of the assault he begged them to stop and told them that he would buy a replacement cassette radio through his father. When he was taken back to the police station later they met Saliya's father on the bridge at Angammana and told him, "Your big fellow is there, look at him."

Saliya's mother informed their lawyer of the incident by telephone. She told him about the assault in the police station and at the village and asked him to do something. However, when the Lawyer phoned the police and questioned them about the incident they denied that he had been assaulted but admitted that he had been thoroughly interrogated.

When Saliya's mother went to the police station at about 7.30 pm with a food parcel she found him lying on the concrete floor of the cell. He told her, "Mother, I am unable to get up and come out." She asked him to come near to the door of the cell so she could give him that food parcel but when she handed it to him he was too weak to hold it and it fell to the floor. When the mother asked what had happened to him he told that they had held him down over a table and assaulted him with a wooden pole. By then he was in tears and begged his mother to speak to the lawyer and have him released.

When the mother had told the lawyer about the assault he promised to speak to the police again on this matter. Later, the lawyer requested the mother to meet him at his office at Karalliyadda at 8 am on 5 July 2011.

When she met the lawyer, he had given her the address of SETIK, a human rights NGO and advised her to make a complaint. Accordingly, Saliya's parents went to this NGO and explained the situation. They assisted the parents to make a formal complaint to the regional office of the Human Rights Commission (HRC), Kandy, and met the legal officer at 2.30 pm in her office.

When the legal officer contacted the Panwila Police by phone, she was told that they were holding no such person. She repeated his details and warned the police officer not to assault him any further. She also told him that it was illegal to keep a suspect for more than 24 hours.

Later that day the parents returned to the police station with a food parcel. On arrival they found that now his mouth had been injured as he had been struck by a pole. As a result, his lips were badly injured. Again, Saliya's mother had spoken to the lawyer. He again promised to speak to the police and advised her to make a further complaint to SETIK.

At about 6.00 pm the legal officer at the Human Rights Unit of SETIK and an officer of the Asian Human Rights Commission in SETIK accompanied the parents to the Panwila Police Station where they observed firsthand the injuries caused to Saliya. They met with IP Ruwantilaka of the crime branch and the legal officer and the officer of the Human Rights Unit told him that it was illegal to assault a suspect and keep him in police remand for more than, 24 hours.

When the father went to the police station at about 8.00 am the following day the police told him, that Saliya will be produced at the Teldeniya Magistrate's Court. At 11.45 am the police took Saliya to the Makkanigama Government Hospital and as the doctor was not available he was then taken to Naranpanawa Government Hospital for a medical report.

Later at about 1.30 pm Saliya was taken to the Magistrate's Courts. He was escorted to the courts by Sergeant Palitha No: 16199 and produced to the Magistrate at about 2.00 pm. The counsel for the defendant told the court that his client was not guilty of the charge. He also said that it was illegal to keep him in police remand for more than 24 hours, and that in addition, during this period his client had been assaulted by the police. He stated that as a result of this assault, damage has been caused to his feet, toes cheeks, head, mouth and lips.

After considering the defense counsel's submission the Magistrate ordered Saliya to be examined by the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) and that he be produced in court on 13 July 2011 with the medical report. He was sent to the probation centre until then.

Later Saliya learned that the case filed against him is No: B 531/ 2011 in the Magistrate's Court of Teldeniya.

Saliya and his parent state that he was illegally arrested, arbitrarily detained and severely tortured by the police officers who thereby violated his fundamental rights guaranteed by the Construction. He further states that although his parents made complained to the HRC, still justice has not been given to him.

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