Sri Lanka urged to stop police torture

Critics claim there is still no effective system to investigate allegations of mistreatment in custody
Sri Lanka urged to stop police torture

Sri Lankan religious leaders, human rights defenders and torture victims gather on the U.N. International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on June 29 at Kandyan Arts Residency in Kandy. (Photo by Nissanka Karalliyadde/ reporter, Kandy
Sri Lanka
July 3, 2018
Religious figures, human rights campaigners and victims in Sri Lanka have called on the government to urgently adopt legal and other measures to stop the torture of people in police custody.

An existing law, the 1994 Torture Act, had so far failed to stem abuses, they said.

A Buddhist leader, Venerable Atipola Mangala Thera, said on June 29 that the United Nations and various international human rights organizations remain concerned over the continuing use of torture in Sri Lanka.

Recommendations on ways to end torture, as well as other forms of cruel and inhuman treatment, had still not been acted on, Ven. Mangala Thera told a gathering to mark the U.N. International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

"There is a serious collapse of the system," he said at the event organized by the Catholic Church's human rights office in the central Sri Lankan city of Kandy with the theme "Everybody is harmed when one person is tortured."

Human rights groups maintain that torturing suspects is common during police investigations, even in cases involving relatively minor offenses.

Many investigators exploit legal loopholes in order to deny torture allegations and the police force lacks a genuine commitment to eradicate violations, according to anti-abuse campaigners.

While most victims are male, women have been severely tortured by police, they say.

Police are at the center of most torture claims, but military personnel have also been accused of torturing detainees.

Herath Mudiyanselage Podikumarihami told the Kandy anti-torture event that she was severely beaten and threatened with death by police who wanted to engage in illegal sand mining on her land in the temple city of Mahiyanganaya.

According to the Asian Human Rights Commission, from 1998 to 2011 about 1,500 alleged cases of torture were reported in Sri Lanka.

Father Nandana Manatunga, head of the human rights office in Kandy Diocese, said successive governments had falsely maintained that police torture is not routine.

And there is still no effective system in place to investigate torture allegations, he added.

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