Following his ordeal he suffered headaches and pain for a considerable time. Like many who complain about torture,
he filed a petition with the Supreme Court stating that his fundamental rights had been violated. He complained that Article 11 of the Constitution, which prohibits torture, had been violated by the police officers who assaulted him. The Supreme Court, having considered the case, granted leave to proceed.
When the police officers filed a response Sarath Kumara faced a surprise. For a long time the attorney general of Sri Lanka has not appeared to defend any officer charged with rights abuses, including torture. However, in Sarath Kumara’s case a senior state council appeared before the Supreme Court and stated that the attorney general will defend the alleged perpetrators of torture in this case.
The Attorney General’s Department offered no explanation as to why Sarath Kumara, who claimed to be a torture victim and a victim of human rights abuse, was being treated differently by the highest legal office in Sri Lanka.
This has given rise to the speculation that the department has changed its policy of not siding with alleged perpetrators of human rights abuses against citizens who complain of torture and other violations. If this is the case the Attorney General’s Department should issue a clear policy statement, as this is a matter of serious importance to the public.
The attorney general in Sri Lanka is the chief prosecuting officer for all crimes, including the crime of torture, which is recognized as an offence punishable by a minimum of seven years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of 10,000 rupees (US$87).
If the police officers cited by Sarath Kumara are to be tried for torture, it is the job of the attorney general to prosecute them; but now it has been announced that he will defend them in the Supreme Court. This is a clear conflict of interest that will surely jeopardize Sarath Kumara’s chances of obtaining justice.
It is the duty of the police to investigate the complaint of torture by Sarath Kumara. Often special police units are assigned to investigate such complaints and submit their findings to the Attorney General’s Department.
However, as the Attorney General’s Department has already made up its mind to defend the alleged perpetrators, the investigating officers cannot expect an impartial assessment of the case from the same department. It may well be that when the police investigators know that the attorney general has already undertaken to represent the alleged perpetrators, they may be discouraged from investigating the matter altogether.
Sri Lanka has one of the worst policing systems in the world. Allegations of corruption and the use of torture are so frequent that the highest officers in the police force have admitted the crisis in the system. Former attorney generals have also publicly acknowledged the crisis facing the policing system.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly pointed out the failure of high-ranking officers to take effective measures to prevent torture and other human rights abuses by the police. The Parliament, with rare unanimity, agreed when it passed the 17th Amendment to the Constitution that Sri Lanka’s police system is politicized, which means it is manipulated by politicians and not within the framework of the rule of law.
The decision by the Attorney General’s Department to represent the alleged torture perpetrators of Sarath Kumara will contribute to the worsening of the already bad situation of policing in Sri Lanka.
Before making such a decision, the highest legal office in the country must have seriously considered the implications of its actions on the rule of law and the lives of the people. In fact this decision will frustrate the objectives of the Constitution, which allows citizens to come before the highest court to complain about human rights violations.
When an ordinary citizen complains against errant officers and the state exerts its full force to defend the alleged perpetrators, it puts the credibility of the whole exercise at stake. This decision of the Attorney General’s Department should be subject to public debate, as it is a clear threat to the protection of their rights.
Sourc: Sri Lankan judiciary undermines the law