Alleged Police Assault Triggers Human Rights Complaint in Sri Lanka

In a recent incident that has sparked outrage, a formal complaint has been filed with The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) against the Yakkalamulla Police in Galle district. The complaint centers around the alleged wrongful arrest and assault of a civilian.

The victim, identified as Koggala Wellalage Sisira Kumara, resides on Hospital Road, Aluthwatta, Nakiyadeniya, in Galle. The incident took place on May 9th at around 09:00 to 09:30 p.m. Kumara had visited Dimuthu pharmacy at Yakkalamulla Junction to purchase medicine. While at the pharmacy, he heard the sound of firecrackers exploding near the junction, approximately 30 to 40 meters away. Concerned about potential violations of coronavirus safety measures, Kumara and the pharmacy owner stepped out to investigate.

At the junction, they witnessed firecrackers being lit near a statue. To their surprise, a group of police officers, some in civilian clothes and one in uniform, were seen approaching the area where the firecrackers were ignited. The officers proceeded to stop a cyclist on the road and allegedly subjected him to physical assault.

Kumara, still at the scene, was approached by a police officer in civilian clothing who accused him of being involved in lighting the firecrackers. Despite the pharmacy owner’s attempt to clarify that Kumara was a customer buying medicine and not connected to the firecrackers, the police officer disregarded the explanation and took Kumara into custody.

Once at the Yakkalamulla police station, Kumara reportedly faced further physical abuse by the police. The pharmacy owner and an employee of the communication center where Kumara worked visited the station around 9:45 to 10:00 p.m., requesting to speak with him. However, they were allegedly rebuked and sent away by the police.

It wasn’t until around 10:30 p.m. that night that the owner of Dimuthu Pharmacy, Mr. Dimuthu, provided CCTV footage from the scene to the police. He demanded Kumara’s release, claiming that the footage exonerated him. After reviewing the evidence, the police released Kumara around 10:00 a.m. on May 10th, citing the incident as a “small mistake.”

Due to the severity of the alleged police assaults, Kumara required medical treatment at Karapitiya hospital for two days following his release. Seeking justice and accountability, Kumara appealed to the relevant authorities for a formal, swift, impartial, and fair investigation into the incident.

In a recent update on the case, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka took up the matter for consideration. Leave to proceed was granted based on violations of Article 11, 12(1), and 13(1) of the Constitution, targeting the 1st and 2nd Respondents. The State was directed to submit a report on the inquiry conducted by the 4th Respondent within four weeks. The court also allowed for amendments to the petition to add more respondents if necessary.

The legal proceedings are scheduled to continue on February 24, 2024. Notably, during the submissions, it was revealed that a legal matter had been initiated against Kumara, but was later withdrawn. Additionally, information about proceedings before the Human Rights Commission inquiry was noted as crucial for the current application.

The case highlights the importance of addressing alleged police misconduct and upholding human rights standards. The aggrieved parties are pursuing due process in seeking justice for Kumara’s alleged mistreatment.

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