The BAR Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has raised concerns in relation to arrests and detentions being carried out without adherence to due process.
In a letter to the Inspector General of Police, the BASL said that the arrests and detentions were akin to abductions.
We draw your attention to complaints received by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) from its members relating to arrests and detentions being carried out without adherence to due process in a manner akin to abductions.
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has received complaints from its members and the Colombo Magistrate’s Court Lawyers’ Association on the arrests of persons by police officers dressed in civilian clothing without possessing any identification.
It is alleged that persons so arrested have been taken away in unidentifiable vehicles and kept for several hours at undisclosed locations. On these occasions, no receipts of arrest have been issued nor an opportunity given to the persons arrested to inform relatives, friends, or lawyers of their whereabouts. On these occasions, they have been deprived of access to Attorneys-at-Law or the Human Rights Commission for a few hours.
In one such instance, a suspect named Anthony Veranga Pushpika de Silva had been taken away by persons in civilian clothing, and his whereabouts were unknown for six hours. He was eventually found by Attorneys-at-Law to be in police custody. In another instance, a suspect named Mangala Maddumage had been taken into custody by two persons in civilian clothing, and his whereabouts were known only a few hours later. In a third instance, a student studying at Kelaniya University had been abducted and questioned for nearly three hours before being released.
We are also informed that on several occasions Attorneys-at-Law appearing for suspects were not properly informed or given misleading information on suspects in custody and on the time that they will be produced in Courts. These have resulted in them being deprived of legal representation and due process especially when they were produced at the residence of a Magistrate during late hours.
We draw your attention to some of the provisions of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance Act, No. 5 of 2018.
Section 15 of the said Act provides as follows:
15. (1) No person shall be held in secret detention
(2) Any person deprived of liberty shall have the right to communicate with and be visited by his relatives, attorney-at-law, or any other person of his choice, subject only to the conditions established by written law.
(3) Law enforcement authorities, and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, shall have access to the places where persons are deprived of liberty.
Section 16 of the said Act states as follows:
16. (1) Any relative of a person deprived of liberty, the representative of a person deprived of liberty or an attorney-at-law of a person deprived of liberty shall have the right to access the following information:-
(a) the person or authority that ordered the deprivation of liberty;
(b) the date, time, and place where the person was deprived of liberty and admitted to the place of deprivation of liberty;
(c) the authority responsible for supervising the deprivation of liberty;
(d) the whereabouts of the person deprived of liberty, including, in the event of a transfer to another place of deprivation of liberty, the destination and the authority responsible for the transfer;
(e) the date, time, and place of release;
(f) information relating to the state of health of the person deprived of liberty; and
It is therefore of utmost importance that police officers carrying out arrests identify themselves at the time of arrest and afford persons so arrested an immediate opportunity to communicate with their relatives, friends or their Attorneys-at-Law about their whereabouts. We request you to ensure that adequate access is given to Attorneys-at-Law and the relatives of such suspects without delay.
Given the numerous instances in the past of persons being subject to arbitrary arrests, arbitrary detentions, and enforced disappearances and in consideration of Sri Lanka’s international obligations to prevent enforced disappearances, we call upon you as Head of the Police Department to immediately ensure that all arrests are carried out strictly according to procedures established by law and that instructions are given to all police officers in respect of the above. (NewsWire)