Sri Lanka police in the crosshairs for torture and death, once again

Scores of angry Tamils took to the streets in northern Sri Lanka demanding justice for a young man who died in custody.

On Tuesday, protesters condemning police brutality carried placards in Tamil, Sinhala and English that said “Alex Life Matters, Police Anarchy Exposed”.

They alleged that the young Tamil would have not suffered police brutality had the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission (SLHRC) intervened in time.

When Nagarasa Alex, from the village of Sittankerny was brought to the Jaffna teaching hospital by prison officials on 19 November he was already dead.

His body carried multiple injuries, according to the Judicial Medical Officer’s findings in the postmortem held on 20 November under the supervision of Jaffna Chief Magistrate A. A. Anandaraja.

“There were multiple injuries (abrasions and contusions) noted in the back of the trunk, both upper limbs and both lower limbs. These were no natural diseases directly or indirectly [that] contribute to this death,” determined Dr. Uruthirapasupathy Mayorathan, Consultant Forensic Pathologist.

 "Petrol soaked plastic bag"

 The 26 years old Tamil was arrested by Vaddukkoddai police on 8 November suspected of burglary.

However, he was not shown to a magistrate as expected, which prompted his mother to lodge a complaint with the SLHRC on 10 November. He was held in arbitrary detention for two more days before police produced him in court.

On 12 November, the Jaffna magistrate ordered Alex to be remanded. On the recommendation of a Judicial Medical Officer who examined him, the detainee was taken for treatment at the Jaffna Teaching Hospital.

A video recording apparently made while at hospital shows Nagarasa Alex describing the alleged police torture including waterboarding.

“My hands were tied behind and my face was covered with a cloth and they carried on beating me while pouring water. I was hanged by my legs and beaten. Then they covered my face with a petrol soaked plastic bag and beat me. I passed out. Now I can’t lift both my hands. I was not given any food on the first day.”

In the short video, Alex says that the policemen threatened him demanding not to file any case with the HRCSL and gave him arrack to drink.

Deputy Inspector General of Jaffna Manjula Senarath had told local journalists that four police officers have been transferred to the crime prevention unit while investigations are being conducted.

Tamil politicians who decry the move as a whitewash demand the immediate arrest of the perpetrators and produce them in court.

More victims

This is the second Tamil to die in police custody within six months.

On 12 May, 42 years old R Rajkumari, a domestic worker died in police custody after being for 24 hours. She was arrested by police after Sudharma Neththicumara, a businesswoman and popular teledrama producer, alleged the mother of two had stolen a ring while working as her maid.

The post-mortem report concluded the cause of death was haemorrhagic shock, as a direct result of the deceased’s body sustaining blunt force trauma caused by a blunt weapon or similar object.

Four policemen including a sub inspector from the Welikada police station who were arrested had been remanded by the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court.☐



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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