Sri Lanka Bar Association concerned about police brutality, says will intervene if necessary
ECONOMYNEXT – The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) will observe action being taken to curb what it calls a disturbing trend of police brutality in the country and stands ready to intervene where necessary, the BASL said yesterday.
In a statement signed by BASL Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, the association said a failure to hold errant police officers to account would ultimately lead to erosion in the rule of law and the confidence the public has in the police department.
The statement comes in the wake of a brutal assault on a lorry driver by a traffic police officer in Pannipitiya on March 29. Footage of the incident went viral on social media and the constable, who is attached to the Maharagama police station, was promptly arrested later in the evening amid public outcry about police brutality. A separate incident involving two traffic police constables allegedly assaulting a civilian went viral on Twitter earlier this week.
The BASL statement expresses serious concern about the incidents and the violent and brutal nature of the force used.
“The BASL is firmly of the view that the use of force should not be used under any circumstances except as provided for by law. In exceptional and extenuating circumstances, the use of force should be minimal and should be proportionate to the circumstances,” it said.
“This position is firmly supported by legislation, the decisions of the Supreme Court and the regulations of the police,” it added.
Despite criminal and other proceedings initiated against the police officers concerned, the BASL said, there is an urgen need to address the culture of impunity and permissibility and the systemic issues that enable such police officers to act in an unlawful manner in complete disregard of not only the law but also the rights of persons whom they are bound to safeguard and protect.
Welcoming a bill presented by Justice Minister Ali Sabry to amend the Code of Criminal Procedure Act No 15 of 1979 to impose mandatory monthly police station inspections by magistrates, the BASL said, however, that monthly visits by judicial officers alone will not be enough to address police brutality.
“There must be a concerted effort by all authorities concerned including the National Police Commission and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka to address the issue,” it said. (Colombo/Apr03/2021)