30 August 2008
SRI LANKA: Alleged assault and ill treatment of a woman by police and jailors
ISSUES: Ill treatment assault corruption legal assistance administration of justice
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the ill-treatment of a woman by police officers and jailors in late June 2008. The lady was involved in a private argument with another woman whose husband is a high ranking government officer. This case shows how this officer abused his official position by influencing other officials and is yet further evidence of miscarriage of justice.
CASE DETAILS: (Based on the testimony of Galapitahene Gedara Nandani Kumari)
On 27 June 2008, at about 2pm, Galapitahene gedara Nandani Kumari (45) had a quarrel with a neighbour known as R.M. Padmakumari, the wife of the Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of the Matale prison H.M. Ekanayake. Nandani says that Padmakumari assaulted her and her son. Consequently Padma kumari had admitted herself to the Raththota Hospital.
At about 3:30pm on the same day, officers attached to Matale Police Station came and arrested Nandani and took her in a private van to the police station. Nandani`s husband also went with her and at the police station met the OIC and made a statement regarding the incident. The OIC declared that since the first complaint made was against Nandani, they had taken her into custody. Nandani was made to sit on a chair near the police cell.
At about 5pm Nandani was taken to another room upstairs and a statement recorded. The officer who recorded the statement talked to her sternly. He accused her of cutting and injuring Padmakumari with a knife. Nandani denied this. After the statement was recorded, Nandani requested that she wanted to read it before signing. The officer then shouted at her saying: `Who do you think you are, that I should give this to be read?` He further scolded her saying that she was too forward. He forced her to sign the document that she was is a suspect. Nandani was again taken downstairs and told to sit on a wooden bench. Nandani`s husband brought her a meal. For the night an old woman was kept with Nandani and at night they both went upstairs and slept on a bench.
The next day Nandani had got her menses and her head and back ached badly. Nandani told the elderly woman about it and she took her to a tap and told her to wash her soiled garments, in which she had to dress again in their wet state.
Nandani was taken back downstairs and told to sit on the wooden bench, which she found very uncomfortable. At about 8am Nandani called a Woman Police Officer (WPC) and told her of her position and asked her for medicine. The WPC refused to oblige saying that they were busy getting ready for the arrival of a senior officer.
Later again Nandani spoke to another WPC and asked her for sanitary wear. She too refused to oblige saying: `Where are we to find such things, are we to go home and bring them?` Nandani was in great discomfort and found it easier to stand and wait. The officers however shouted at her to sit down. Nandani then told one of the officers her position. The officer told her to tell one of the WPC`s. When Nandani next spoke to a WPC, she told Nandani that she will be taken to a court in a little while and to bear it somehow and wait patiently. Shocked Nandani asked why she was to be taken to court and was told that it was to obtain bail.
While Nandani waited, she heard the OIC reply to a phone call saying that he will be sending (someone) at 11:50pm, which she immediately knew was with reference to her.
Nandani was taken to court. Her husband too joined her. An officer who was there told them that it was not a court day, and that there will be no lawyers
, however if they could reload his mobile phone with Rs. 100 (USD 0.9), he could get them a lawyer he knew. Nandani`s husband provided him with the money however he took the phone call without reloading the mobile phone. Nandani then was taken with some others who were also in police custody and her husband to the Magistrates Court Matale.
At the court, the officer who had said he would find a lawyer asked Nandani how much of money they had. When she replied that she had Rs. 500.00/= (USD 4.6) he scoffed at it. Nandani then gave her gold chain to her husband to be pawned. For this they got another Rs. 2,000/= (USD 18).
The officer then went and spoke to the lawyer whose name was given as Darshani Gunasekeara. The lawyer asked Nandani to relate the incident in brief since she was busy, and asked for Rs. 4,000/= (USD 37). Nandani told her that they had only Rs. 2,500/= (USD 23) in hand to which the lawyer said was not enough since she has to give money to the police as well. However she agreed that they would pay the remaining Rs. 1,500.00/= (USD 13.9) on the next date. When the case was called, the lawyer appeared for Nandani. Nandani says that a charge had been fabricated against her stating that she had cut and injured Padmakumari with a knife. The police opposed bail and Nandani was remanded till June 30.
Nandani was then taken to the Matale prison, where the OIC is the husband of the said Padmakumari. The officer who had introduced the lawyer to Nandani went and spoke to the OIC in a friendly terms referring to him as `machan` (`brother-in-law` in local language but widely used as meaning of `brother`). Clapping their hand together in a gesture of congratulating on a job well done, the officer told the OIC that he had done his part and now the rest was up to him. The OIC then inquired of him who the lawyer that had appeared for Nandani was. The officer told him that it was the `same one`. The officer further asked the OIC if they will be `looked after`. To which the OIC said that such things can be discussed later. Nandani claims then the OIC took a phone call and said that he is sending a person and to send a bus. Nandani was then sent to the Kandy prison on that same day.
At the Kandy prison, several women jailors got together and intimidated her saying `So you came after assaulting our OIC`s wife? The jailors on duty tomorrow will assault you`, they told her and gave her food to eat.
On June 29, Nandani was taken to the room of the woman Jailor who asked her if she came from Matale. When Nandani did not speak, she was threatened and told to speak. Nandani then related the incident, referring to the OIC as the `Guard Aiya` the name by which he was known in the village. The woman jailor then scolded her asking `to whom do you think you are referring to as guard aiya? learn to talk, properly! Did you not assault the wife of the OIC?` saying this she took Nandani to another room.
On the way to the room Nadani slipped and fell on the floor. Several women jailors who were in the vicinity then pounced on her, kicked and trampled her shouting at her to get up. Nandani got up with difficulty. The women jailors now surrounded her and started to assault her in a most cruel manner hitting her head against the wall. They told her that they had got instructions to `half kill her`. When Nandani was so assaulted that she passed urine and blood. The women jailors then gave her a piece of cloth and told her to clean up the mess and then have bath.
Nandani says after she had a bath she became very sick and vomitted. Nandani was then taken to a doctor. However the woman jailor who accompanied her threatened her not to tell of the assault. Afraid Nandani complied.
On June 30, Nandani was taken to the Matale Magistrate`s Court. Again the women jailors threatened not to reveal that she was assaulted and if she did that she would be assaulted again when she is taken back.
Nandani was then sent back to the Matale prison, where the OIC of the prison H.M. Ekanayake asked her if she had enough of it (in local language `parippu ethitha?`) He further threatened her that if there is any problem again in the neighborhood, she will be killed and sent home. Speaking to other officers, he told that it was a shame that they could not have got the prisoners to have done the rest too, which means rape. Nandani was put into a prison cell. Nandani`s husband was not allowed to see her but the clothes that were brought by him were given to her.
Nandani was produced before the Magistrate court. The same lawyer Priyadarshani Gunasekara appeared for her. Nandani paid her the remainder of Rs. 1,500/= (USD 13.9). Nandani instructed the lawyer to tell court that she was assaulted in the prison but she did not do so. Nandani was given bail and released. (Case No. B 691/08 and next hearing is to be on 17 October 2008).
On the same day, due to the trauma sustained on her body and resulting several body pains, Nandani got herself admitted to the Matale Hospital. She told the doctors that she was assaulted by the women Jailors of the Kandy prison. The Hospital police recorded a statement from her. The Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) examined her. Nandani was discharged on July 8, after about one week of treatment. Nandani says that as a result of the assault, her ears had to be treated. She was sent by the Matale Hospital to the Kandy Hospital where it was declared that her ears had been injured of the assault.
On July 4, Nadani`s husband complained about the incident to the Kandy branch of the Human Rights Commission. (Reference no. HRC/K/S/T/89/08/111) On July 8, a written complaint about the incident was sent to the Human Rights Commission in Colombo and to the Commissioner General of Prisons and the Inspector General of Police (IGP). Consequent to the complaint made to the IGP it has been notified that the complaint has been referred to the Deputy Inspector General (Central Province).
This is yet another case of cruel, degrading or inhuman punishm...