With the theme " Prosecute the Torture Perpetrators " a signature campaign was launched by the Human Rights Office - Kandy of Sri Lanka to request the Attorney General to prosecute the Torture Perpetrators under the Torture Act no 22 of 1994, as for the past 08 years, Torture cases were not filed under this Act as Attorney General Department was directly under the President.
There are several cases of Torture filed under fundamental rights in the Supreme Court but not under the Torture Act. The cases that are now in High Courts under this Act were filed in early 2000. The Torture continues systematically almost every day in police stations. Even now large number of cases are being reported but the Attorney General has failed to prosecute the perpetrators under the Torture Act. The special investigation unit of the police that investigated cases of torture was also dismantled during the previous regime.
here was only one conviction from the Central Province of Sri Lanka on the 03rd December 2015, where 02 police officers attached to the Wattegama police station were sentenced to 07 years of rigorous imprisonment but this case was filed in 2007 under the Torture Act. It is the one and only conviction from the Kandy High Court for that matter from the whole of Central Province. There are few more cases of Torture still in High Courts filed under the Torture Act before 2008.
Along with the signature campaign the Human Rights Office had a public gathering and an exhibition to mobilize the civil society to campaign to "Say No to Torture", to form a civil movement against Torture.
On the 24th June 2016 the programme was held at the George E de Silva Park, in the heart of the Kandy city. It started off with the public gathering along with the religious leaders and the civil society actors. Fr Nandana Manatunga, the director of the Human Rights office, explained the purpose and the significance in commemorating the International Torture day. The coordinator of the Kandy Regional branch of the National Human Rights Commission Mrs. Kumudini Vithana explained why the civil society need to campaign against Torture. The Religious leaders, Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu and Muslim leaders then explained the evils of “Torture" from a religious perspective.
This was followed by the exhibition that depicted the real stories of Torture victims, recent judgements on Torture cases and the devastation of the dignity of the human person due to Torture. Posters further explained the inalienable Rights fundamental rights, what transitional Justice means and posters on disappearances and of rights of the prisoners.
With the signature campaign, general public were made aware of the “Evils of Torture and all those who signed the petition were given leaflets, handout on “Torture" the mother of all Human Rights violations, and knowledge on how to make a complaint at the police station, the Rights of the women when searched explained in detail and the Rights of the suspected who are being arrested etc.
The exhibition and the signature campaign continued from 9.00 a.m. until 4.30 p.m. and the general public, from all walks of life, showed a tremendous interest on the subject including the school children and several torture cases were also reported then and there. 4846 persons signed the petition and the HRO hope to collect 10,000 signatures before finally it is handed over to the President, the minister of Justice and the Attorney General. The comments from the general public was very positive and they thanked the HRO and requested more opportunities to campaign against police brutality and Torture.
Human Rights Office Kandy, Torture in Sri Lanka, Disappearances in Sri Lanka, Healing and Counseling
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