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Rights group questions continuing deaths in police custody

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… asks whether the suspect in handcuffs at the time posed a threat to police

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney-at-law Senaka Perera says that the death of persons taken into custody by the police cannot be justified under any circumstances.

Activist Perera questioned the circumstances in which Dinithi Melan alias Uru Juwa who had been arrested by the Nawagamuwa police on Monday (10) died of gunshot injuries on the following day.

The police couldn’t absolve themselves of the responsibility for the safety and security of those who had been taken into custody even if they were under investigation over criminal activities, lawyer Perera said.

Responding to The Island queries, the activist said that in spite of quite a number of deaths in police custody over the years those responsible never took tangible measures to prevent such incidents.

The Public Security Ministry owed an explanation how the person in the custody of the Nawagamuwa police had received gunshot injuries when he was taken to a place at Waduramulla, Nawagamuwa on Tuesday, lawyer Perera said. The suspect obviously in handcuffs couldn’t have posed a threat to the armed police party accompanying him, Perera said, urging the government to rein in the police behaving like an extra-judicial killer force.

Lawyer Perera said that the Justice Ministry, Public Security Ministry, the Office of the Attorney General, the National Police Commission, Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) should be concerned about continuing deaths in police custody.

The bottom line was the police bypassed the judicial process and summarily got rid of persons whom they considered a threat, the Attorney-at-Law said.

The civil society activist challenged DIG (Legal) and Attorney-at-Law Ajith Rohana’s version of the events leading to the death of Dinithi Melan.

Based on information provided by the Nawagamuwa police, DIG Rohana said that ‘Uru Juwa’ had been wanted in connection with at least four killings, about 20 cases of taking ransoms and a number of other incidents. The top police official said that ‘Uru Juwa’ had been responsible for incidents during the 2015-2019 period and was being taken by the police to Wanduramulla, where the police opened fire during an incident.

Later, the police recovered five swords, one locally made weapon, 38 rounds of T 56 ammunition, eight rounds of 9mm ammunition and six hand grenades, DIG Rohana said, adding that the suspect was pronounced dead on admission to the local hospital.

DIG Rohana said that Western Province (South) police were conducting an inquiry into the incident under the supervision of a Superintendent of Police.

 Lawyer Perera said that a lawyer visited the late Dinithi Melan at the Nawagamuwa police and his arrest was also brought to the notice of Police Emergency and the HRCSL. Responding to another query, the rights activist said that the arrested person hadn’t been produced before a Magistrate.

Lawyer Perera challenged the police to reveal previous investigations conducted into deaths in police custody. According to him, Samarasinghe Arachchige Madush Lakshitha alias Makandure Madush was killed in what the police claimed a shootout between them and the underworld at Applewatte Housing scheme in Oct 2020. Following the incident, the police made the usual claim of recovering heroin and promised a thorough investigation, lawyer Perera pointed out. “We would like to know the outcome of the internal police inquiry into the Madush killing,” lawyer Perera said.

The police never explained how Madush having been in the custody of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) since May 5, 2019 suddenly led the CCD (Colombo Crime Division) to major heroin recoveries just few days of taking the suspect into their custody on Oct 16, 2020, lawyer Perera said. Madush was killed in questionable circumstances four days after the CID handed him over to the CCD, the lawyer alleged.

The human rights activist said that the Parliament should look into deaths in police custody. According to him, there had been a substantial number of deaths in police custody during the previous Rajapaksa administration as well. However, the change of government in January 2015 resulted in a change of the situation for the better, lawyer Perera said, urging the media, both print and electronic, to be cautious in the reportage of deaths in police custody.

Perera said that his organization didn’t oppose law enforcement authorities taking a tough stand on those accused of criminal activity. However, extra-judicial executions couldn’t be part of the police strategy meant to address organized crime, lawyer Perera said.

The possibility of various interested parties, including political elements using the police for ulterior purposes. The police shouldn’t undermine public confidence in them, the lawyer urged law enforcement authorities. 

 

 



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Haiti police riot after crime gangs kill 14 officers

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Protesters attempted to break into the Haitian prime minister's residence (picture BBC)

BBC reported that Rebel police officers rioted in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on Thursday following the killing of more than a dozen colleagues by criminal gangs.

The rioting officers blame the government for not taking action.

More than 100 demonstrators blocked streets, burned tyres, broke security cameras and damaged vehicles.

Local media said several officers broke through the gates of the prime minister’s residence and attempted to enter Haiti’s international airport.

Fourteen officers are thought to have died since the start of the year in various gang attacks on police stations.

Seven officers were killed in shootout on Wednesday alone, according to Haiti’s National Police.

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Gold-covered mummy among latest discoveries in Egyptian tomb

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One of four newly discovered tombs at the Saqqara archaeological site south of Cairo (picture BBC)

BBC reported that archaeologists say they have found a gold leaf-covered mummy sealed inside a sarcophagus that had not been opened for 4,300 years.

The mummy, the remains of a man named Hekashepes, is thought to be one of the oldest and most complete non-royal corpses ever found in Egypt.

It was discovered down a 15m (50ft) shaft at a burial site south of Cairo, Saqqara, where three other tombs were found.

One tomb belonged to a “secret keeper”.

The largest of the mummies that were unearthed at the ancient necropolis is said to belong to a man called Khnumdjedef – a priest, inspector and supervisor of nobles.

Another belonged to a man called Meri, who was a senior palace official given the title of “secret keeper”, which allowed him to perform special religious rituals.

A judge and writer named Fetek is thought to have been laid to rest in the other tomb, where a collection of what are thought to be the largest statues ever found in the area had been discovered.

Several other items, including pottery, have also been found among the tombs.

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Health crisis: GMOA calls for WHO intervention

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Alleging the government has failed to address the developing crisis caused by grave shortage of pharmaceutical drugs, the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) has called for WHO’s intervention.In a letter dated January 26, 2023, addressed to WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, GMOA Secretary Dr. Haritha Aluthge has raised concerns about shortage of pharmaceutical drugs, escalating prices of medicines and allegations of malpractices and corruption in procurement procedures.

The GMOA has released its letter to the media along with what it called a 10 fold plan formulated by an expert committee set up by the GMOA.

The following are the GMOA’s proposals:

1. To appoint a high-level coordinating committee within the Ministry of Health to ensure effective communications and coordination between following institutions, identified as responsible for the whole exercise. (a) Ministry of Health focal points (b) Medical Supplies Division (MSD) (c) State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) d. State Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Corporation (SPMC) e. National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) Monthly progress review meetings of aforementioned committees are to be ensured, with Chairmanship of Secretary, Ministry of Health or his representative. Quarterly review with Minister of Health to facilitate arriving at essential policy decisions.

2. To ensure Transparent Procurement Procedures, where every interested citizen should be entitled to know the true facts.

3. To upgrade the available computer software programme to match the current needs and to ensure more efficiency in procurement procedures.

4. To appoint a technical committee to study Auditor General Reports with regard to procurement Procedures of last 5 years and actions to be declared with specific time frame to implement recommendations of the Auditor General.

5. Review the recent Presidential Investigation Commission reports and initiate urgent actions to file legal action against the respondents. Remove all those officials who are accused through these reports of malpractices, from their current posts, until the verdicts are delivered.

6. To minimise emergency purchases of Medicinal drugs and ensure the transparency of that process through progress reports on emergency purchases, which is to be published on a monthly basis.

7. To identify alternative modes for distribution of pharmaceutical drugs to peripheral stations (e.g.: Public Transport services with identified modifications)

8. To open an “Information Desk” at the Ministry of Health to effectively communicate with and guide the donors of pharmaceutical items.

9. To fill the existing vacancies at National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA), following stipulated acceptable pathways and activating all the sub committees within NMRA.

10. To declare a relief package to reduce the prices of essential medicinal drugs, through the upcoming interim budget.

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