Sri Lanka police questioned on ‘confessions’ of terror suspects

The police chief in Sri Lanka had been questioned about forcing confessions from terror suspects that would be used against them in legal proceedings.

In a letter to Police Chief Chandana Wickremaratne, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has called for information on ensuring the validity of statements allegedly made by detainees held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). In many cases, the damning evidence against suspects produced in court have been their own confessions.

On Tuesday, HRCSL had sent the letter following a meeting with the National Police Commission that was told of many detainees who have complained of pressure in relation to self-incriminating statements. While the overwhelming majority of terror suspects are Tamil speakers, they have been forced to sign statements written in Sinhala, a language many of them do not understand.

“These include frequent trips to police headquarters where pre-prepared statements are proffered to detainees in Sinhala for their signature, inducements such as promises of release if statements are signed and threats such as charges based on falsehoods if they are not signed,” says Commissioner Ramani Muttetuwegama in her letter of 24 November.

'Self-incriminating statements'

Rights watchdogs including the UN had documented instances of PTA suspects being forced to sign documents in a language that they did not understand, or were simply asked to put their signature at the bottom of a blank piece of paper, after having been tortured, sometimes in exchange for transfer out of police or security service custody.

According to HRCSL, police had admitted that several detainees have been “advised to provide confessions”.

“As you are aware, the admissibility of self-incriminating statements, even under the PTA, is based on the test of voluntariness as required by Section 24 of the Evidence Ordinance,” reminds Commissioner Muttetuwegama.

She had urged Acting IGP Wickremaratne to inform HRCSL of measures that have been taken in this regard to ensure the validity of statements made to the police.



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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