| A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission
(December 12, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Sri Skandaraja Sumanan, a twenty eight year old man was taken into custody by two persons in civilian dress who identified themselves as officers from the Police Intelligence Services. He was taken into custody at the junction of Punnaly Kattuwan, in front of a barber shop. He sat between the two officers on their motorcycle and was taken to the Jaffna Police Station.
Friends who heard about the incident went to the Jaffna Police Station to see him but they were told that he had been transferred to Chunnakan Police Station. When they went to that police station they could not find him.
Later one of his relatives and the twenty seven year old brother of Sri Skandaraja Sumanan were told by the police that Sumanan was dead and to come to Kilinochchi and identify the body. The police have stated that they found the body in a canal and that it was sent to the Polonnaruwa District Hospital for post mortem examination. The examination was held on November 26, 2011 and the burial was held on November 27th. At the post mortem about 40 injury marks were found and the relatives are of the view that they were caused by torture in police custody.
The police version is that Sumanan fled from police custody and had fallen into the canal where he drowned. The police also stated that Sumanan was wanted for several robberies in the area. This has been denied by the relatives. According to the relatives he was a patient taking treatment from the psychiatric ward at Monthai, Point Pedro.
The relatives state that he had been tortured at the police station and his body was thrown into the canal by the police.
Similar stories relating to custodial deaths are often heard in Sri Lanka. The police always claim that the death was due to persons falling in rivers or waterways while escaping from custody. Or the police claim that they had to shoot the detained person because he tried to snatch some weapons and attack them. It is now a cynical joke, popularly told in Sri Lanka that people who are taken into custody often die in this manner.
Despite of repeated calls on the government by various groups in Sri Lanka and also from the international community the Sri Lankan government continues to ignore calls for proper inquiries and for the imposing of discipline in the police service.
At the 47th Session of the Committee against Torture in their concluding observations the committee made the following recommendation to the government of Sri Lanka:
The Committee urges the State party to investigate promptly, thoroughly and impartially all deaths of detainees assessing any possible liability of law enforcement officers and prison personnel, and provide, where appropriate punishment of the perpetrators and compensation to the families of the victims.
The State party should provide comprehensive data regarding reported cases of deaths in custody, disaggregated by location of detention, sex, age, ethnicity of the deceased and cause of death.
The Asian Human Rights Commission urges a thorough investigation into the death of Sri Skandaraja Sumanan to be conducted by a Special Investigation Unit of the Criminal Investigation Division. Further the AHRC urges the government to heed the recommendation by the CAT Committee cited above and to take appropriate action to implement these recommendations.