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
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Herat's behalf have already withdrawn their services.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.
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