Supreme Court urges action on torture accused

[TamilNet, Sunday, 29 September 2002, 18:47 GMT]
The Attorney General (AG), on a directive from the Suprem Court, has called for relevant documents from the Registrar of the Supreme Court and instructed the Inspector General of Police to consider taking action against police officers who had been found guilty for violating the Fundamental Rights (FR) of Yogalingam Vijitha, a 27-year-old Tamil woman of Kayts in Jaffna district, legal sources said.

Three member bench of the Supreme Court at the conclusion of the inquiry in the FR case filed by Yogalingam Vijitha had directed the AG , " to consider taking steps under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Act No: 22 of 1994 against the respondents and any others who are responsible for the acts of torture perpetrated on the petitioner woman Vijitha."

She has cited nine respondents including eight police officers and an informant in her FR petition and sought relief for the alleged infringement of her fundamental rights secured by Articles 11, 13(1) and 13(2) of the Constitution.

After the inquiry the three member bench of the SC comprised Justices Mark Fernando, Gunasekara and Ameer Ismail held that the first to fifth and ninth respondents (all are police officials) had violated the petitioner's fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 11 of the Constitution. The SC had further ordered that a sum of Rs: 250,000/- be paid as compensation and costs to the petitioner out of which Rs: 150,000/- be paid personally by the first, third and ninth respondents in equal shares and the balance Rs: 100,000/= by the State.

The petitioner had stated in her petition that she had been subjected to severe torture when held by the Police at Negombo police. At one stage of the torture, a plantain flower soaked in chillie powder had been inserted by force into her vagina and had been pulled in and out for about fifteen minutes whilst she was lying down on the table four policemen had held her hands and held her legs apart, said the petitioner.

The SC in its twenty five page judgment said," the facts of this case has revealed disturbing features regarding third degree methods adopted by certain police officers on suspects held in custody. Such methods can only be described as barbaric, savage and inhuman. They are most revolting and offends one's sense of human decency and dignity particularly at the present time when every endeavor is being made to promote and protect human rights".

Meanwhile the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has written to the Sri Lanka's Interior Minister, referring to Vijitha torture case. The AHRC said in its letter" it is a disgrace, nationally and internationally, to see that even after Supreme Court decision are being handed down in Sri Lanka no action is being taken against state officers found guilty of having committed heinous violations of domestic and international laws. Until the police are rid of criminal elements, it will be impossible to control crime and to ensure security for the people of your country. Failure to act will create further disillusionment in your ministry and the rule of law in Sri Lanka.

"AHRC considers the decision of the Supreme Court in this case to be of the utmost importance, as it sets a precedent in steps towards the effective implementation of the Convention Against Torture Act," the letter to the Interior Minister states.

In the meantime several human rights activists say, "the authorities concerned have enforced the Convention Against Torture Act only in seven instances since its inception against members of State armed forces who had been found guilty for violating fundamental rights by the Supreme Court."

 

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