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Human Rights Commission issues guidelines to Acting IGP on arbitrary arrests

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) yesterday recommended a series of guidelines to Acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandana Wickramaratne in order to avoid what it called arbitrary and illegal arrests.

Noting a number of questionable arrests made in the wake of the Easter attacks, such as the arrest of a Muslim woman whose outfit bore a print of a ship’s wheel, the HRCSL said the Police Department needs to ensure arrests are made only on a basis of reasonable suspicion. The Commission did, however, commend the Acting IGP in its letter for the efforts of the Police to track down those responsible for the attack.

The letter further notes that a number of complaints were made to the HRCSL regarding unlawful arrests.

“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 garments he was selling”, it said.

The communiqué laid out the following four guidelines 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.

The HRCSL also requested that these guidelines be brought to the attention of police personnel with strict instructions.

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