29 October, 2020

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Govt. Asked To Review Appointment Of Deputy Solicitor General Yasantha Kodagoda As Head Of ‘Torture Prevention’ Committee

The decision by the Government to appoint Yasantha Kodagoda, Deputy Solicitor General (DSG) as the Chairperson of the Government’s Steering Committee on ‘Torture Prevention and the Law’ of the National Human Rights Action Plan has met with protests on grounds that Kodagoda is not a person suitable for the position as he has played a negative role in the prevention of torture.

Yasantha Kodagoda

Yasantha Kodagoda

In a letter addressed to the Minsters of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samarawickrema and Minister of Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe,, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) said that they are not aware of a single instance where Kodagoda played a positive role in the prevention of torture.

“Our objections are based on our experiences working on torture prevention for over 20 years in Sri Lanka. In fact, this network consists of the most active civil society groups that act specifically on the prevention of torture.

Due to this long involvement, we are fully aware of those in the government services and, in particular, the Attorney General’s Department, who have played a positive role with regard to the prevention of torture, and also those who have played quite a negative role relating to this matter. Mr. Yasantha Kodagoda’s role belongs to the second category and, despite our involvement in this work, we are not aware of a single instance in which he has played a positive role in the prevention of torture,” AHRC said in a letter dates 13th September 2016.

While emphasizing that the purpose of the was not to launch a personal attack against Kodagoda, the Commission said that the letter was an effort to prevent this committee, which has the immensely difficult task of contributing to the prevention of torture, from becoming seen negatively because its chairman is a person with no positive record of any active engagement in the prevention of torture.

Citing reasons over their claim, AHRC said in his public role before the Udalagama Commission of Inquiry is well known given that Kodagoda was specifically and negatively named by members of the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) monitoring that Commission. Kodagoda was the Lead Counsel for the Attorney General at the Commission even though the Commission was inquiring into actions of state officers in regard to failure to properly investigate and prosecute certain cases of gross human rights abuses in regard to which he had been himself involved at the preliminary stage of advising on the investigations, which was a clear conflict of interest.

“In addition, while the role of the Attorney General’s Department’s officers was to assist the Commission, Mr. Kodagoda aggressively cross examined the witnesses who came before the Commission, in a vigorous attempt to protect state agents against whom these witnesses were giving evidence. We are also aware that, regarding the detention of Tamil prisoners at Boosa camp, he prevented discussions on the arrest and detention of Tamil prisoners without grounds for reasonable suspicion,” AHRC said.

The commission said that the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Justice along with the National Human Rights Commission, would certainly agree that the prevention of torture in Sri Lanka is one of the most formidable challenges in the area of protecting and promoting human rights. The practice of torture is deeply embedded in the very criminal investigation system, and there has been official approval of the practice of torture for many generations. “The police department itself accepts the grave challenge in preventing torture and ill treatment. Common reasons given for justifying this practice is that the department has not been able to provide adequate scientific training and other facilities to enable its officers to conduct criminal investigations without the use of torture and ill treatment. A further justification is that certain cultural habits entrenched in the population, often put pressure on police officers, encouraging them to use ‘third degree’ methods for the quick resolution of crimes,” the commission said in its letter.

The letter said that “The role of the Attorney General’s Department, on the whole, has been negative in relation to the prevention of torture. It was only when Mr. K C Kamalasabayson was the Attorney General that the Department took a more proactive approach to enforce Sri Lanka’s law against torture, contained in the CAT Act No. 22 of 1994. It was only during this period that a significant number of cases were investigated through a special unit of inquiry and nearly sixty prosecutions were launched. In contrast, Mr. CR De Silva, as Attorney General, gave categorical instructions to his officers not to institute cases under the CAT Act, famously saying that ‘the department is not going to listen to NGOs.’ What in fact happened was that the Department in fact gave into the pressures that were mounted against such prosecutions by a section of the police and also the armed forces. Since then, all the other Attorneys General have adhered to the same negative policy of not prosecuting under the CAT Act.

Regarding fundamental rights, at one time there was a policy of counsel from the Attorney General’s Department not representing officers against whom there were allegations of torture. However, also beginning with the time in which CR De Silva was Attorney General, this policy was changed and counsel from the AG’s Department began to represent such officers. Their role in fact needs to be recorded and analysed in detail in order to examine some of the most unacceptable practices pursued regarding this matter by the Department.”

Therefore, according to AHRC if any member of the Department were to be nominated for the purpose of drafting a national policy in regard to the prevention of torture that should be done only if such an officer has taken the exceptional step of not following the wrongful practices that the Department pursued regarding the issue of prevention of torture.

“We hope that the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Justice in collaboration with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka would consider the above concerns and review the decision to designate Yasantha Kodagoda as the Chairperson of this vital committee, which has the potential to contribute positively to the task of preventing torture, which the Human Rights Commission has declared as one of its major priorities,” AHRC said.

“We have also been informed that persons have been nominated /named to this committee without prior obtaining of consent, resulting in at least one such invited person declining to serve with others to possibly follow suit In any case, as far as we are aware, no public consultation has been conducted regarding the constitution of such committees. In particular, we wish to point out that the Human Rights Commission, by its very nature, is committed to a policy of transparency. The Commission has also declared in the past that it considers that civil society organizations engaged in the work relating to the protection and promotion of human rights are its partners. In these circumstances, it would benefit the Commission as well as the people of Sri Lanka if this policy of transparency is pursued in such matters and in regard to the Government’s aim to improve the protection of human rights which is the first priority of any reconciliation effort,” the letter added.

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Latest comments

  • 3
    2

    I have no desire to carry water for the nominee but is’nt it the job of the Attorney General’s department to represent the point of view of the National Government? If that is the case, then Mr. Kodagoda was just doing his job. Are the geniuses who are suggesting he played a ‘negative’ role thinking that he should have inserted his personal opinion into cases involving the government?

    I think an open and free press should not justify Open and loose minds and the ability to attach and criticize all and sundry should be subject to proper evaluation and inspection. Otherwise, it will be the law of the jungle and the loudest will always be on top! As we already know from the performances by our representatives in Parliament.

    • 2
      0

      Who is this man

    • 0
      0

      If all these appointments are based on criteria and seniority, experience, why should we be busy with them. When they are not met only we the public should be unhappy.

      Like we got to know all the appointemtns made by Meehararaka Rajapakshe himself were no means acceptable to anyone with a little brain. That made Royal Astroldger without olvel had been offered 5 or 6 director posts. Lalith Kothalawala was awarded with a doctorate even if he is said to have no olevel (Sathayagaraya LANKEN TV).

      All is beocming now clear the so called pragmatic leader whose so called magic made a wonder to lanka eliminating terror- but according to their explanations, failed to do the job in the aftermath of the war. Except letting few R and D to be continued.

    • 0
      0

      In which part of the constitution says that the AG has to represent the government officials when they are accused of breaking the law?
      Do you want AG to appear for the government officials when they are accussed of coruption as well.
      AG’s basic function in the courts to assist the judiciary to deliver justice and not to obstruct it.

      • 0
        0

        The Attorney General acts in a quasi judicial capacity.In the event of a State Officer acting mala fidei & outside thevscooe of his authority it is the norm for the AG not to appear and/or aopear for the officer

  • 1
    1

    The officials of the attorney generals dept. Are public servants who’s salaries are paid from a the public funds.
    They have to serve the public. In an event of alleged torture of a member of the public, what right do they have to represent the accused against the victim?

  • 0
    0

    This is a very important job.[Edited out]

  • 1
    2

    This looks like Tamils getting ready for the next eelam war.

    People to be involved in that are Mangala smaraweera, wijedasa Rajapakse, Civil socities aka NGOs, Human right commissions (either the Church or CIA funded, IIGEP is another group of vultures. Only one Tamil had been good for them.

    You should include CBK and Rajitha Senarathne to this also, may be spokes mand and lobbying – consultant.

  • 2
    0

    The fact that Wijedasa Rajapaksa who now has a documented history of preventing wrongdoing by the previous regime being investigated has anything to do with an initiative speaks (very loudly) for itself.

    This is simply yet another instance of more Colonel Sanders’ being put in charge of (more) chicken coops!

  • 2
    0

    Didn’t he play a prominent role in Kamal Guneratne’s book launch by Mara? Did he play an aggressive role against Fonseka after his arrest?

  • 1
    0

    Ha! Ha!
    A cat has been thrown amongst the Pigeons?

  • 0
    0

    The fact that Wijedasa Rajapaksa who now has a documented history of preventing wrongdoing by the previous regime

    How about, Wijedasa Rajapakse is one of the previous govt ministers who got Rs 50 million bundles and foreign vacation at the expsne of the Avant guard.

    No one investigated those yet.

  • 2
    2

    This is definitely they want to sabotage this gentleman because he had been doing a good job. Tamils and their pay masters do not like that.

  • 1
    0

    Who is calling the shots or is it Basil Fernando of AHRC or onbehalf of AHRC, Ms or Mrs. KPJ meddling in internal affairs of Sri Lanka to satisfy pay their pay masters or wanting people to suit their needs to supress people to pursue hidden agenda of their paymasters to sing for their for their supper????????????????

    Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)an NGO…………..
    India & Modi kicked them out and do not want them.
    Now, Benjamin Netheniyahu & Valdimir Putin are irritated with them.

    What is Basil Fernando & the AHRC doing in Sri Lanka?
    [Edited out]

    • 0
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      Ranil, Mangala, CBK, they are the leaders.

      they all kneel infonr of west. Western policies are the best.

      Next generation of politicians are their children.

      They are looking for more children because another generation of children have to become leaders.

  • 3
    1

    AHRC is perfectly correct in saying that the AGs department condoled torture by not taking action against the offenders. Appointing a guy like Kodagoda who has never shown any commitment or passion for eliminating torture is a joke and this decision must be revoked. In fact all these puppets in the AGs department who sucked up to the MARA must be now investigated for dereliction of duties and corruption.

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