Police intimidating sexually tortured woman AI

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 11 September 2002, 18:18 GMT]
Amnesty International made an urgent appeal to the Sri Lankan government Wednesday urging it to prevent Police officers on trial for sexually torturing a woman in their custody from intimidating her, her family, her lawyer and a human rights defender who has been involved with her case.

Following is the full text of the AI statement:

Nandini Herat was arrested on 8 March 2002 by the police in Wariyapola, near Kurunegala, in the northwestern region of Sri Lanka. While in the custody of the Wariyapola police, she was reportedly subjected to sexual torture. The magistrate ordered that Nandini Herat should be given a medical examination, however a gynaecological examination was not conducted despite Nandini Herat's insistence that it should be.

In early August five police officers, including the officer in charge (OIC) of the Wariyapola police, were charged with the torture of Nandini Herat before the Magistrates' Court of Wariyapola. The police officers concerned are still in their posts at the Wariyapola police station. The trial has begun and the next hearing takes place on 13 September.

The magistrate issued a warning that the witnesses should not be intimidated. However, the OIC reportedly went to Kandy remand prison where Nandini Herat is currently being held. Human rights activists believe he attempted to see her in order to ask her to withdraw the case, but was prevented from doing so by prison officials.

Nandini Herat's father was threatened by Wariyapola police when he tried to obtain a copy of the initial complaint made to the police against her. Although he had with him a letter endorsed by the Inspector General of Police and the Superintendent of Wariyapola Division requesting that a copy of the document be handed to Nandini's father, the police at the station refused and threatened him and his son with death.

Nishantha Kumara, a human rights defender who has taken up Nandini Herat's case, has also received several threats. In one incident, two men came up to him on a bus, pinned him down and pulled out a knife. They are reported to have said "Are you the human rights dog who is trying to send my brother in law to prison?". When the bus conductor and the driver intervened, Nishantha Kumara managed to escape.

Two lawyers who had been asked to act on Nandini Herat's behalf have already withdrawn their services. There are fears that the withdrawals may be a result of intimidation, and there are concerns that a third lawyer - Priyantha Gamage - who has agreed to represent her is also being intimidated in order to make him drop the case.

Journalists have reportedly been warned to stay away from the next hearing on Friday 13 September. They have been told that they will be stopped if they try to enter Wariyapola on that day.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

Sri Lanka incorporated the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment into national law in 1994, and made torture a crime punishable by seven to ten years' imprisonment and a fine. Although the government has set up a Human Rights Commission and other mechanisms for preventing torture from occurring, and investigating allegations of torture and ill-treatment, torture continues to be reported regularly, and only a handful of cases are investigated.

 

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