Center for Human Rights and Research (CHR) and Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) strongly condemn the assault, arrest and the alleged torture on the Allied Health Sciences students by Slave Island police and hopes that the judicial system will do justice to the arrested students. 18 students were arrested on May 16 and four students were admitted to Colombo National Hospital due to injuries after they were inspected by Judicial Medical officer of the National Hospital on Saturday (May 18). These injuries occurred due to police torture according to the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF).
The assault and arrest of university students who held a peaceful demonstration are violations of Sri Lankan constitution. Article 15 of the constitution ensures the ‘freedom of speech, assembly, association, movement, & c.’ In addition Sri Lanka is a party to several conventions that binds the government to assure the above mentioned rights and the state is bound to ensure that those detained are not tortured. The law enforcement authorities have thus violated the Sri Lankan constitution and several international conventions that the state is a party to.
CHR and CaFFE also believe that the allegations of torture made by students can’t be easily discounted because the Sri Lankan police have a notorious reputation of torture to elicit confessions and custodial death. According to an ongoing study by CHR, there have been close to 1800 cases of Police torture since 1995, and the new regulations that have allowed the Police to detain a person for 48 hours without needing to present the detainees before courts of law has led to the increase of frequency in such incidents. One of the main reason for this increase is the belief that there are no dedicated institutions concerned or to take action against such behavior by law enforcement authorities.
More than 400 students were arrested, assaulted and suspended in the last five years and student union activities were suppressed. The demonstration was peaceful and we believe that this issue can be easily resolved through honest discussion.
Therefore CHR and CaFFE request the IGP and other relevant authorities to investigate the unwarranted arrest, attack and torture of the university students. The two organizations also stand with the Allied Health Sciences students and supports their demands. We also ask the government to end the systematic suppression of students and academic freedom.
Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon
Executive Director – CaFFE
Director – CHR
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.