SRI LANKA: Tribunal to End Killings at Police Stations
July 4, 2014
A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission
SRI LANKA: ‘People’s Tribunal to End Killings at Police Stations’ – to be Held on July 6, 2014 in Badulla
The Asian Human Right’s Commission sends its greetings to all those taking active part in making the ‘People’s Tribunal Against Killings at Police Stations’ a reality.
When looking into recent killings at police stations in Sri Lanka, it is obvious that the decision to form a People’s Tribunal is an important one. It is a dire need of the times. It is heartening to note that one of the members of this Tribunal will be K.U. Mallika, the mother of Sandun Malinga, the 17 year old boy who was killed at the Kandeketiya Police Station recently. Her decision to participate in this Tribunal is indicative of growing frustration with the number of killings at police stations across the country. The participation of parents that have lost their own children, in the hope that it will protect the lives of so many others, should receive everyone’s attention and respect.
Today, Sri Lankans are struggling to grapple with the spate of police killings and police torture. The government appears disinclined to inquire into these grave violations of human rights. The attention of the government appears to be focused on protecting the perpetrators of these crimes and not the victims, who are the ordinary folk of this country. The Ministry of Defense, entrusted to protect the enforcement of law within the country, shows no interest in maintaining discipline within law enforcement agencies. That the government is using its security officers to create fear among the people across Sri Lanka has manifested itself in the series of killings witnessed at Katunayake, Negombo, and Rathupaswala, amongst other places.
Under normal circumstances, inquiring into acts of police indiscipline has been the responsibility of the Inspector General of Police (IGP). However, the IGP does not seem to be engaged in these tasks anymore. People do not trust the capacity of the IGP or other ranking officers to protect law enforcement. In the past, people used to approach the Courts when faced with grave issues like police killings. Today, the same people have no hope of obtaining redress from the due process of law. Courts, in recent times, have decided that killings in Police Stations are legitimate homicides.
So, who is the protector of the people today? Who is the guardian of Sri Lankans? Within as short a period as one month, there have been two separate incidents where the police have killed young persons with their pistols. While these killings are obviously serious crimes, the police have reacted by generating fake explanations, which only amount to ridiculing those who have been killed. This is not normal behavior. The Sri Lankan people, and the Members of Parliament who represent them, must step forward to protect citizens. It is not possible to expect Members of Parliament in government to volunteer for this effort. The momentous task falls on the opposition MP’s. If they also refuse this responsibility, more and more Sri Lankans will die due to police killings.
It is heartening to see that several opposition MP’s have become members of this People’s Tribunal. However, the need of the hour is not the mere participation of a few MP’s but the participation of all opposition parliamentarians. If such a unified effort is made, it is possible not only to stop the killings at police stations but to also build a mass resistance against a government that allows for such killings.
The Asian Human Rights Commission calls on all members of the opposition to join hands and establish a ‘Complaints receiving Centre’ related to such killings and instances of torture by the police. By establishing such a Centre, under the supervision of all members of the opposition, it will be possible to stem this unconscionable violence and create a new trend for law enforcement.
There is a need to create a group of volunteers that can work under the supervision of opposition parliamentarians. If the opposition parliamentarians are willing to make this effort, more than enough young men and women, and parents, will lend active support. Such a Centre would receive complaints of arrests and assaults taking place at police stations across Sri Lanka and intervene immediately to stop any illegal interference against the rights of the people.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has experience in such interventions. On many occasions, the AHRC has received complaints of torture and other abuse at police stations and has directly intervened from its Head Office in Hong Kong. The AHRC has often succeeded in having people released through such interventions. If, with the participation of the opposition Members of Parliament, a ‘Complaint receiving Centre’ is established in Sri Lanka, strong interventions that can stop the killings at police stations will become a reality.
A determined first step is what is needed. If the opposition parliamentarians take this first step, they will receive the people’s support, as well as the resources needed to carry out this task. The AHRC’s request is that the opposition MP’s in Sri Lanka show courage and come forward to stop police killings. By coming forward this way, they will also be able to demonstrate determination in taking charge of the future cause of Sri Lanka. Utilizing this opportunity, of the launch of the People’s Tribunal in Badulla, all members of opposition parties should step forward to establish a Centre that can receive people’s complaints and set up a programme to bring police killings in Sri Lanka, once and for all, to a decisive end.