Peliyagoda police station
Torture and killings at Police Stations are nothing new in Sri Lankan history. Though many international human rights organisations have, over the years,highlighted the need for reforms where the Sri Lanka Police was concerned, little or nothing constructive has been done to clear the Police Department of its black marks.
The latest incident of police torture was reported from the Peliyagoda Police Station where a final-year law student who had suffered serious injuries after he was allegedly assaulted by some police personnel at the station. On February 24 Migara Gunaratne, a final-year law student had visited the Peliyagoda Police Station on the instructions of his brother Charitha to provide a meal to one of his (Charitha’s) clients, who was being held at the police station where the alleged assault had taken place.
Attorney at Law Maithri Gunaratne told Daily Mirror that most probably the incident could have been a case of mistaken identity. “Both my sons look alike and the police personnel may have mistaken him for my eldest son. They were heard saying, ‘you have caused a problem here and is your sickness over now’ and it was when Migara had said he had nothing to do with causing any trouble for the Police that they had allegedly attacked him.
“Eleven policemen including Officer-in-Charge Linton Silva, had mercilessly assaulted Migara. During the assault my son had mentioned my name and asked why they were assaulting him and what wrong he had done. The Police had then stopped assaulting him and produced him before the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO). The preceding events took another turn when the JMO had ruled that given the condition of the law student he could not be sent off and needed to be admitted to hospital,” Mr. Gunaratne said.
Attorney-at-law Charitha Gunaratne, told the media that Migara was brutally assaulted on the night of February 24 by at least ten policemen when he went to give some food to one of his clients, who was detained at the Police Station.He said it could have been a case of mistaken identity.
“I was instructed by my Senior Counsel on February 23 to visit the Peliyagoda Police Station to represent one of his clients. At the police station I was informed that my client was being held at the Special Crimes Unit and I saw my client being intimidated by a person in civvies. I immediately stepped in and told that person, whom I believed was a policeman, that he was my client and I was there to represent his interests as an Attorney-at-Law and produced my Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) Identity Card to prove my credentials,” Charitha said.
He said the man in civvies moved away without checking his IC. “I was informed by my client that he was brutally assaulted by the cops on several occasions while in custody and that they had threatened to charge my client with drug-related offencesto ensure he will be jailed if he did not heed the demands of the policemen. (Mind you, my client was being held for totally unrelated issues linked to financial matters). I went out to make a phone call and when I returned I heard the person who was in civvies threatening my client in the presence of other suspects who were brought to the police station for drug-related offences and it was quite easy for them to accuse my client also of similar offences,” Charitha said.
“Since I was unable to identify the rank of the person who was in civvies, I addressed him as Sergeant whereon he began addressing me in filth while walking towards me. OIC Linton Silva also began intimidating me and demanded to know my credentials and on showing him my BASL ID card he scribbled something in his Notebook. “I told the Inspector that I had no option, but to address the personas Sergeant since he was in civvies while on duty,” Charitha said. “Then the Inspector accused me of being drunk. I challenged the officer to subject me to a breathalyzer test to confirm whether I was drunk and held my ground until my client pleaded with me to leave as he would have to face the wrath of the policemen if the situation escalated.”
He said soon after leaving the premises, he informed the BASL and the relevant Police Department about the incident.
“Since my client felt that my presence may be detrimental to his safety and health while under police custody, I asked my brother, Migara (a third-year law student) on February 24 to take some dinner to my client. It was when he visited the Peliyagoda Police Station to hand over the food that he was brutally assaulted by at least ten policemen. I presume they attacked him having mistaken him to be me,” he alleged. “Furthermore they only stopped assaulting Migara after he had mentioned he was Maithri Gunaratne’s son while an SI instructed his subordinates to charge Miagra with obstructing the police from performing their duties, because they knew that later problems might crop up. The Police had even threatened to make him a suspect in a drug offence,” Charitha said.
Meanwhile, the police personnel including OIC, Chief Inspector Linton Silva who were allegedly involved in the assault of law student Migara Gunaratne have been interdicted and a special investigation launched.
“Their services have been suspended and action will be taken against them if found guilty.I have also requested the IGP to carry out an investigation on this matter,” Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekara told the media. .
Bar Condemned the attack
Newly-elected BASL President Saliya Peiris PC in a tweet condemned the attack on the law student by the Peliyagoda Police and describing the incident as ‘appalling’he noted that, ‘there should be zero tolerance of police brutality and the perpetrators must be swiftly dealt with and prosecuted’.
"There should be zero tolerance of police brutality. The perpetrators must be swiftly dealt with and prosecuted"
BASL Secretary Rajeeva Amerasuriya said the Bar Association strongly condemned the incident that had taken place at the Peliyagoda Police Station.
“We will take necessary action against such incidents, which should not happen and must not be allowed to happen,” he said.
“Police torture is a day today happening”-Right to Life
“This is only one of the many incidents of police torture that takes place in several police stations. This incident was highlighted because of the status of the persons involved,” said Philip Dissanayake, Executive Director of Right to Life, an organisation working against police torture.
He said over the years there had been a large number of incidents of police torture. “Even though we do not receive reports of most of such cases, this is a national question and has to be addressed on an urgent basis. We have been calling for Police Reforms, but that has not happened,” Mr. Dissanayake said.
"This is only one incident of police torture that takes place in many police stations. Due to the importance of the persons involved this incident was highlighted"