Colombo, December 12, 2023: In commemoration of the 75th International Human Rights Day, the Sri Lankan Collective Against Torture organized an event titled “The Root of Police Torture.” A policy dialogue, themed “Context and Solutions,” was conducted on December 11th at the Laxman Kadiragamar Center in Colombo 07.
Distinguished guests at the event included Honorable Minister of Justice, Mr. Wijayadasa Rajapaksa; former Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police, Mr. Priyantha Jayakodi; Forensic Medicine Professor, Mr. Clifford Perera; lawyer, Mr. Dulan Dasanayake; and social activist, Mrs. Amita Priyanthi.
Addressing the gathering, Minister Wijayadasa Rajapaksa emphasized the constitutional prohibition of torture under Article 11, stressing that efforts had been made to address the issue within the police service. He highlighted amendments made to mitigate the situation, including the establishment of the Police Commission and the Victim and Witness Protection Authority under the 19th Constitutional Amendment in 2015.
The Minister further explained that legislative changes had been enacted to reduce delays in the legal system. Additionally, he mentioned the introduction of measures allowing individuals accused of minor offenses to be placed under house arrest, supervised after signing a bond by their parents or relatives.
Dr. Wijayadasa Rajapaksa underscored the importance of transforming the police into a friend of the people, emphasizing the need for a cultural shift within the force. He stated that a change in the attitude of police officers could positively impact public perception and advocated for humane law enforcement.
Former Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police, Mr. Priyantha Jayakodi, echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the significance of scientific crime investigation and an attitudinal change among police officers. He identified the quick solution mentality as a major driver of torture and stressed the necessity of employing technology, such as mobile DNA, fingerprint analysis, and body-worn cameras, in crime-solving efforts.
While acknowledging the well-established legal framework for human rights, Mr. Jayakodi noted the lack of infrastructure for effective investigative work. He emphasized the need for technological advancements to bridge this gap.
The event concluded with a consensus among participants on the importance of comprehensive reforms within the police force to align with international human rights standards and enhance public trust.