Haputale police have released a 29 year old man who is alleged to have raped a 14 year old girl without carrying out a proper investigation.
According to a complaint lodged by the girl’s parents, a bus driver, who hails from a wealthy family has been released by the police without even being produced before a magistrate on grounds that the victim’s family belongs to a minority.
According to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), the 14-year-old girl was abducted and raped by her school bus driver on 19th June 2016, and she was threatened to keep quiet or her parents and other family members would be killed. However, despite the threat, her family members filed a complaint with the Haputale Police Station, yet the case has not been investigated.
“The alleged suspect, who belongs to a wealthy family, was simply released, without him being produced before a Magistrate. The victim’s family says that as they belong to an ethnic and religious minority in the region, the police have not given them attention in their quest for justice. The case illustrates the collapse of the rule of law in the country,” AHRC said.
The victim and her family from a Estate in Haputale who are Tamils and ardent followers of the Roman Catholic region live within a small community in a tea estate that is surrounded, predominantly, by the majority Sinhalese people.
On the 19 June 2016, the victim was returning from the Roman Catholic Church at around 11 a.m. She traveled by bus about seven kilometers, and was walking home the last half kilometer, after getting down from the bus. “As the victim was walking home, a three-wheeler stopped and offered her a ride. The Victim knew the two men who were seated behind and therefore she got into the three-wheeler. The two men who were seated behind were the bus driver and the conductor of a private bus in which she used to travel sometimes to school. Students call the bus driver Mr. Gamini (29),” AHRC said.
To her surprise, the victim was not taken to her home but instead to the bus driver’s house. She had objected and questioned them and pleaded to them to take her home. “But the three-wheeler driver and the bus conductor left the victim with the bus driver. The driver forcefully took her into the house, where she had learnt that there was no one in the house. She was frightened and yelled for help. She went into shock and panic,” AHRC said.
She had shouted and made several attempts to run away from the house, but failed. The alleged suspect Gamini then raped her. After this, she was threatened not to reveal what happened to anyone. If she revealed the incident, she was threatened that her parents would be killed. Then the suspect dropped the victim near her house at around 3 p.m. With difficulty she walked to her home. She was in fear.
“Due to the fear that the suspect would harm her family, she kept the matter secret for few days but finally revealed it to her mother on the 7 July 2016. Immediately, the mother informed family members. Violet and her daughter then went to the Haputale Police Station and made a complaint,” AHRC said.
“On the same day, 7 July 2016, in the evening, several hours after the complaint was made, two police officers visited the house of Violet and brought the victim, her father, & mother, to the Haputale Police Station. Within several minutes, police officers brought the alleged suspect, and one of the two men also to the Police Station. The Victim identified the rapist and the other men who aided and abetted in the crime. In front of them, the suspects were put inside the police cell. Then the victim’s mother and her family came back home. But several hours later they learned that the police had sent the suspects home,” AHRC claimed.
Subsequently, on 8th July, the victim, her parents, and her brother went to the Police Station. The police recorded the victim’s statement. It was recorded in Sinhala even though she is not fluent in Sinhala. Statements of her parents were also recorded, and the police officers visited the crime scene, and she was admitted to the Diyatalawa Government Hospital on the same day at around 2 p.m. There the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) examined her. The JMO confirmed to the victim’s parents that she had been raped. On July 10, she was discharged. When she was discharged, the doctors confirmed that she was not pregnant.
The victim’s mother had later questioned the police officers how the alleged suspect Gamini had been released within several hours after he had been brought to the police. The police told the parents that the suspect was produced before an Acting Magistrate and released on bail. Then the mother inquired for the name of the Acting Magistrate and went to meet him, the Acting Magistrate had said that such a suspect was not produced before him. “Therefore, there is now serious suspicion that the suspect has not been produced before a Magistrate,” AHRC said.
*Editor’s note – “Gamini” is a given name by Colombo Telegraph