Status of Human Rights in Sri Lanka

This is a period in which a newly elected President and a caretaker Government ruled the country. Also, it is a significant period of time as the country was getting ready for the parliamentary elections amidst a pandemic, whereas the government was taking tiring efforts to control the effects of the pandemic within the country.

The Parliamentary election was postponed mainly because of the Covid-19 pandemic, amidst a lot of legal battles, legal opinions and chaos.

In these special circumstances, our organization made interferences in 218 cases of human rights violations. This is a decrease of 8 cases compared to the similar period of time in 2019. In 2019, it was 226.

We interfered in 99 cases against the police, cases including and not limited to illegal/wrongful arrests, torture and filing charges based on fake allegations. This is an increase of 13 cases compared to the similar period of time in 2019. In 2019, it was 86.

It was observed that, under the guise of the government's anti-drugs and anti - illegal liquor initiative, there was a rise in the Police tending to imprison individuals for such offences, with the assistance provided by court. 

The Bail Act adopted in 1997 and inactive until recently, was made of use to prevent the Police from imprisoning individuals unnecessarily, due to the continuous insistence made to the courts to implement the said provisions of the Bail Act.

Except for the common socio-economic issues erupted due to the quarantine rules and regulations which were set out in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, there were no human rights violations reported under the quarantine regulations.

Among the "Independent" Commissions established by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified by the "Good Governance" government which came to power in 2015, are the Human Rights Commission which was established to provide relief for those whose human rights (fundamental rights) were violated, protection and promotion of rights, National Police Commission, and even though it does not necessarily come under the above two, it is a must to make a note of the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) which was expected to do a significant job.

These two commissions and the Authority were unable to perform their duties and were institutions that were examples of inefficiency.

However, the Human Rights Commission did take steps to please the "international community" and were able to secure a good name and admiration from them, for themselves.

The Supreme Court pronounced 2 important judgments that were based on torture.

These cases were filed in 2012 and 2014 respectively. In one case, the petitioner was entitled for compensation of Rs. 2 lakhs from the respondents, and although the petitioner was not successful in proving that the Police had in fact breached his fundamental rights in the other case, the note about the violence and torture by Police in that case is of high importance.

We would like to state two excerpts from the judgments that were pronounced for cases filed 08 years ago and 06 years ago, respectively.

“It must, however, be emphasized that the members of the Police force entrusted with the task of ensuring a peaceful environment for the citizenry to live without fear of crime or violence, should not themselves consider it their right to resort to violence at the cost of the well-being of their detainees, in the achievement of those ends.” S.C. (F/R) Application No. 458/2012 

“As a society that is committed to protecting the Dignity and Well-being of the People (See the Preamble/ Svasti of the Constitution), the violation of the right to liberty guaranteed by Articles 11 and SC / FR 296/14 JUDGMENT Page 12 of 12 13 of the Constitution should be of serious concern and in my view, the State should take more proactive steps to address the gap between the law and practice.” SC FR APPLICATION 296/2014

In the entire system of serving justice, rather than doing so, it drains out the physical, mental and economic aspects of life of the oppressed due to the continuous oppression. The entire system violates the fundamental human dignity. It is the women and children who are the most oppressed due to the system.

This state of things has continued for the last 71 years without much change, and without any plans to change the status quo for the benefit of the people, but in the first 6 months in the year 2020, discussions on the real nature of the departments of prison, police, government analyst, attorney general’s have begun. Criticism on the Judiciary rose in a setup whereas it was prohibited to express freely about the judiciary.

Let us mention one particular matter here. Just like it was in the past, the system used its power to put under the carpet some serious issues of unethical practices and misconduct during the last 6 months, in relation to two lawyers, as alleged by their clients and relevant parties.

It is useless to have discussions, debates and arguments over so called "reforms", without taking appropriate action to resolve the institutionalised issues in all the institutions which revolves around the judiciary and the mechanism of serving justice.

The future responsibility of the civil society must be to not quench the needs of the international community, but to influence the local communities to make an impactful insistence on the matters that are useful for the public. 

We have made complaints before the authorities about the relevant incidents that were instrumental to come into these conclusions. We have also published the same on our social media.


19th August, 2020



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