The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has written to the Acting IGP, calling upon him, to ensure that due processes are followed in order to prevent arbitrary or illegal arrests.
The HRCSL in their letter notes that they have received a high number of complaints, particularly in the aftermath of Easter attacks on illegal or arbitrary arrests. .
Listing out a set of guidelines to be adhered to by the Police when making arrests, HRCSL stresses on the need for law enforcement agency officials to make the arrest upon thoroughly conducting an investigation into the by’s Health
We publish below the letter in full:
Mr. Chandana Wickramaratne
Acting Inspector General of Police
Re: Arbitrarv Arrest
In the aftermath of the terror attacks perpetrated on April 2l, we appreciate the efforts taken by your department in the investigation process to identify persons involved. While the security measures are completely justifiable under the present circumstances, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka wishes to emphasize the need to ensure that arrests are made only on the basis of reasonable suspicion.
The Commission has recently received a number of complaints alleging illegal arrests. Some pertain to arrests made due to cultural misunderstandings or uncertairtly and others due to suspicions expressed by members of the public. For example, one woman had been arrested due to a motif on her dress assumed to be inciteful; in some other instances persons have been arrested for possessing literature in Arabic even before ascertaining the contents; arrests have been made due to public pressure such as an arrest of a trader because some persons feared he had applied a toxic substance to certain garments he was selling. It most instances, the Commission observes that police investigations are conducted after the arrest.
In light of the above, the HRCSL recommends the following guidelines in order to avoid arbitrary and illegal arrests:
1. Whenever an arrest is to be made there should be solid evidence to form a reasonable suspicion pursuant to proper investigations. Arrests should not be made merely on hearsay.
2. Where cultural issues are involved, such as the identification of religious symbols or identifying contents written in an alien language, proper expert opinion should be obtained.
3. Where identification of chemical substances or contents of computer files or video footage or the like are involved expert opinion should be obtained.
4. It is vital that the arrests are made not before, but after receiving credible information based on expert analysis and opinion, and on reasonable suspicion.
It is trite law that arbitrary arrests violate the Constitution. We wish to highlight the judgment of theSupreme Court in Naomi Michelle Coleman v. The Hon. Atnmey Gerueral S.C (FR) Application13612Aru S.C.M 15.11.2017 where Ms. Coleman’s arres! detention and deportation due to displaying a tattoo of the Buddha was held to be violative of Article 12(1) and 13(1) of the Constitution, and resulted in compensation and costs being required to be paid amounting to Rs,800,000/- . The Supreme Court found that there was no possibility of a public outcry, though thepolice so alleged, due to the display of such a tattoo.
Therefore, please be good enough to bring these guidelines to the attention of police personnel withstrict instructions requiring compliance.
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka