By Bijo Francis –
His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Office of the President
150, Galle Road, Colombo 3,
Requesting your high level intervention to stop the torture by way of the use of chili by the Sri Lankan police during interrogations
I am writing on behalf of the Asian Human Rights Commission and the reason for addressing this to you directly is because there is no other authority within Sri Lanka which can exercise any effective control over the discipline of the police and intelligence services other than yourself as the executive president of Sri Lanka. This situation is due to the manner of the exercise of command responsibility within the framework of the 1978 Constitution. In fact, on many occasions we have written to the Inspector General of Police and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka on this same issue but our appeals have not led to any positive steps being taken to stop the use of chili in various forms during the interrogations of suspects.
The most recent event that forces us to bring this to your kind notice is the complaint of Mr. Madawala Maddumage Don Aruna Nilupul Indika (39), of Mahagedara, Devala Road, Welipenna in the Kalutara District. Mr. Nilupul Indika is an interior decorator and a man who enjoys a good reputation among his friends which include many persons of other nationalities. In fact, it was the intervention of an Irishman, Mr. Helhill, who visited him at the Matugama Police Station and the steps that this Irishman took the inform the police that he would not leave the police station until Mr. Nilupul Indika was released that saved the life of this man.
The officers at this police station used kochchi chilies on his eyes first and then later on his genitals and anus. For you information we quote the following excerpt of his statement relating to his shocking, appalling, painful and humiliating ordeal:
At that time Nilupul noticed that one of the officers was holding a bag of kochchi chilies (a small but very strong chili). (The officer) placed the chilies in a disused sock and used a piece of hosepipe to crush them before adding some water to make a chili juice. Another officer made Nilupul lie on the floor facing upwards. He then tore off his sarong and pulled off his underpants. They held him down and (the officer) squeezed the sock so that the chili juice ran into Nilupul’s eyes. When he tried to close his eyes to prevent the chili juice running into them the officers forced his eyelids apart. Nilupul suffered enormous pain due to this treatment and felt that he was losing the vision in his eyes. He started struggling violently but they held him down. They then placed a couple of chairs over him to prevent him from moving. The officers sat on the chairs to ensure that Nilupul could not push them away. Then (the officer) again began to drip the chili juice into his eyes. The officer then urged Nilupul to admit to the crime of theft but, despite the torment, Nilupul refused.
(The officer) then said to his associates, “This method is not working”. He then grabbed Nilupul’s penis, pushed back his foreskin and dripped some of the chili juice over his penis. Some of the juice ran down between his legs and he felt a burning sensation in his anus. Nilupul felt that his anus was prolapsed and asked the officers to allow him to urinate. They brought him to a toilet at the rear of the compound but he was unable to pass anything due to the pain. When he told the officers one of them grabbed his wrists and forced them up over his back, which caused one of his shoulders to dislocate. He was then taken back to the room in which he had been tortured.
The use of chili for torturing a suspect by the officers of the Mataguma police is not the first occasion in which such treatment has carried out at Sri Lankan police stations. There are many reported cases while, as you know, many others go unreported due to the fear of the victims of repercussions following the making of complaints against the police. We cite below just a few more examples:
Rankotha Pedige Wikrama Nimalsiri complained of, “Where the police dipped clothed bundles filled ground kochchi chilies into eyes, nose and ears”. Thereafter he alleged that he was beaten and tortured in other ways. About this matter complaints were made earlier to the Sri Lankan authorities. In another instance Mr. Jesu Andrew, a 28-year-old man from Holankanda, Mudulkelle in the district of Kandy underwent similar treatment at the hands of the Panwila police. He complained that he was taken to the police station and stripped naked. Thereafter he was forced to lie on a bench, beaten severely with poles over his body and the officers then rubbed chili powder on his genitalia. In a further instance, 38-year-old, Sunil Shantha of Werawatha, Delgahakanda, Anguruwathota was subjected to similar treatment by police officers attached to the Anguruwathota Police Station. He complained that at the station he was stripped of his clothing, handcuffed and suspended from the roof. Thereafter the juice of crushed chilies were poured into his eyes and rubbed into his genitalia. Another instance in which similar treatment was used was on Mr. Waharagedara Ranjith Sumangala and this done by the officers attached to the Mirihana Police Station. He complained that he was assaulted on his legs with a pole in front of his wife and children and later a plastic shopping bag was filled with chili powder was forced over his head and face. He was kept in this position for over 30 minutes. A similar incident was that of Samayakkarage Ravi Nishantha of Mundakkulia, Anamaduwa in the Puttalam district. This man complained of being tortured by the Anamaduwa police. He complained that after he was assaulted severely the police officers brought him to the kitchen of the station where they covered his face with a plastic bag containing dried chili powder. He stated that he was not able to breathe and felt severe burning and irritation to his respiratory system and nose.
These are but a few of the recorded complaints. However, it can safely be stated that the use of chili powder and juice in various ways has become a common practice in many of the police stations in Sri Lanka.
Complaints relating to such practice have been made to police authorities for over several years now. However, no positive steps have been taken by the Inspector General of Police or the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka or any other authorities in order to stop this practice. Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that this practice is taking place in a widespread manner with the full knowledge and acquiescence of the higher ranking police officers. We are sure that you are fully aware that such a practice constitutes torture in terms of the Sri Lankan Constitution which prohibits torture and also in terms of Sri Lankan law under Act No 22 of 1994. The use of torture of any form has been condemned under international law and the international community treats the practice of torture with abhorrence.
Despite of the Sri Lankan law being very clearly against torture there is no attempt to implement the law in the country. The Supreme Court has on many occasions commented on the failure of the higher police authorities to take steps to stop the widespread practice of torture. However, in practical terms no steps have been taken to stop this practice.
Regarding the aforementioned cases written complaints have been made to the higher police authorities, however, no action has been taken against any of the perpetrators of these acts.
We request you to kindly instruct the Inspector General of Police and the Ministry of Defence to issue written instructions to all police stations and intelligence services to stop the use of chili and also to stop all forms of torture in interrogations. We also urge you to request the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka to submit to you a report on the widespread use of chili during police and other interrogations and to request the commission to also submit to you recommendations on the elimination of this practice as well as the elimination of torture altogether.
Asian Human Rights Commission