Democracy Continues, Sri Lanka Style...
Systematic and widespread police torture in Sri Lanka
Legal Resource Centre
Press Release - 24 October 2005
Text of Full Report in PDF
The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) urged the U.N. Committee
against Torture to take special measures, such as to appoint a
rapporteur, to curb the catastrophic level of torture committed by
the police in Sri Lanka in a report submitted on 9 October 2005 to
the committee entitled “Systematic and widespread torture by state
institutions in Sri Lanka and absence of effective remedies for
victims and their family members.”
The 180-page report was lodged in advance of the committee's
hearings on Sri Lanka scheduled between 7-25 November. The committee
will consider Sri Lanka's compliance with the Convention against
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or
Punishment, the main international treaty outlawing torture, in
examining Sri Lanka’s second periodic report in accordance with
article 19 of the Convention.
"There is an absence of effective legislative, administrative,
judicial or other measures to prevent torture in Sri Lanka," the
Hong Kong-based rights group said in its submission.
"Key institutions which are to uphold the rule of law, namely, the
police, prosecution and the judiciary, have effectively collapsed in
Sri Lanka, and there needs to be an urgent and serious attempt to
rebuild them," the report said.
The report documented about 100 cases of torture committed by the
police in recent years, including rape and sexual torture, deaths in
police custody due to torture and the torture of children.
"The breakdown of the state justice machinery has been caused by the
malfunctioning policing system where command responsibility is
treated as a trivial matter, and the underlying problem is the
inability of the policing system to uphold the rule of law," it
The report also highlighted the unprofessional behaviour of the
"Police in Sri Lanka often operate, not like professional law
enforcement agents, but thugs or gangsters, and this gang behaviour
is often displayed through abuse, use of violence and torture," the
ALRC pointed out.
The report also highlighted the lack of protection for both
witnesses and victims, especially when the victims of torture pursue
cases against the police. A number of torture victims were harassed,
intimidated, again tortured and even assassinated, as in the case of
Gerald Mervyn Perera, by the police for pursuing cases against them.
“The absence of a witness protection scheme seriously affects the
criminal justice system; and because victims are frequently and
seriously threatened, many fear to come forward to pursue their
complaints against torture,” the report said.
In terms of health professionals, the report highlighted the
“occasions where health professionals, such as judicial medical
officers and district medical officers, connive with the police to
cover up evidence.”
The report also referred to the slow process of seeking justice by
the victims of torture, including the slow process of
investigations, the filing of charges and prolonged delays by the
The report also dealt with the issue of inadequate redress and the
absence of fair and adequate compensation to torture victims.
"There is a complete absence of state-sponsored programmes or
mechanisms to rehabilitate torture victims physically and
psychologically," the ALRC pointed out.
The report put forward a comprehensive list of recommendations to
the U.N. committee in dealing with the government of Sri Lanka to
The key recommendations included enacting a witness protection law
to ensure the physical security of Sri Lanka’s citizens, assigning a
permanent special body to investigate torture, enforcing the public
complaints procedure of the National Police Commission (NPC) in the
shortest possible time and establishing the command responsibility
of senior police officials on torture committed by their subordinate
"Without major police reform, it will not be possible to overcome
the present institutional difficulties that make torture a routine
practice at police stations," the ALRC reiterated in its
recommendations to the committee.
In its recommendations, the ALRC also urged the Human Rights
Commission (HRC) of Sri Lanka to take a more proactive role against
torture. The HRC was also urged to work towards establishing command
responsibility among senior police officers for torture, to treat
torture as an institutional problem in the policing system in Sri
Lanka and to set deadlines to complete inquiries.
"The HRC should take a leading role in developing policy mechanisms
for adequate compensation for torture victims and should develop a
comprehensive rehabilitation programme for torture victims," the
This report supplements the earlier special reports entitled
“Torture committed by the police in Sri Lanka” issued in August 2004
and “Endemic torture and collapse of policing in Sri Lanka” issued
in February 2004 by the ALRC. These reports were published in the
ALRC bimonthly publication article 2, which can be found at
The contents of the new report can be found on the ALRC web site at