The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses serious concern about the recent reports of incidents involving the use of force by certain Police Officers 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 circumtances 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. This position is firmly supported by legislation, the decisions of the Supreme Court and the Regulations of the Police. Incidents of the use of force by certain Police Officers which have been highlighted both in the media and on social media just in the current year alone appear to show a disturbing trend.
Although it is reported that the authorities concerned have taken action to initiate criminal and other proceedings against some such Police Officers, there is an urgent 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.
The BASL will continue to observe the action being taken to address this disturbing trend and stands ready to intervene where necessary, as a failure to hold such errant Police Officers to account would ultimately lead to an erosion in the Rule of Law and the confidence the public have in the Police Department.
In this light the BASL welcomes the Bill presented by the Minister of Justice to amend the Code of Criminal Procedure Act, No. 15 of 1979 (published in the Gazette of March 08, 2021) which seeks to impose a duty on every Magistrate to visit every Police Station situated within the Magistrate’s judicial division at least once a month to look into the well-being, welfare and conditions of suspects as required by the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Act, No. 22 of 1994. However, monthly visits by judicial officers alone will not be sufficient to address the issue of police brutality and 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.
(The Bar Association of Sri Lanka)