Dodanpegamage Asantha Aravinda v. Sri Lanka
Asantha Aravinda is a Sri Lankan man who was beaten and arbitrarily arrested by the Sri Lankan police in2008 following a traffic accident. He was detained for several days, denied medical care and tortured.
On 28 February 2008, Asantha Aravinda and his friend were riding a motorbike when they almost collided with a truck, whose driver had missed a traffic light. After exchanging some words, Asantha and his friend drove away, but the truck driver followed them and struck the motorbike, leaving them both severely injured. Shortly after, the truck driver and some officers of the Pitabaddara police station tied Asantha and his friend’s hands and beaten them up. The truck driver poured acid into Asantha’s face in the presence of the police, causing him severe injuries in his eyes.
After the incident, the two young friends were taken to the Pitabaddara police station, where they were physically assaulted by the police, and denied access to medical care. On 1 March 2008, they were forced to show their injuries to a group of journalists outside the police station.
As a result of the delay in accessing medical care, Asantha lost vision in one eye.
The police falsified charges against Asantha and his friend, accusing them of the attempted murder of the truck driver and possession of a firearm and a hand grenade. Despite their release on 1 March 2008, the charges against them remain pending.
ACTION FOR JUSTICE
Immediately after the events, Asantha’s father submitted several complains on the arbitrary arrest and torture of his son to the police officers at the Pitabaddara police station, as well as to higher authorities within the Police, including the National Police Commission. He also submitted a complaint before the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka in Matara.
On 23 August 2008, the Deputy Inspector General of Police recommended to the National Police Commission that disciplinary and criminal action be taken against individual policemen in the Pitabaddara police station for the violations against Asantha under the Penal Code and Act 22 of 1994 on Torture. While two criminal cases were eventually launched against the police officers, they are still pending.
Additionally, charges were brought against the truck driver for pouring acid onto Asantha’s face. He was initially detained but then released and never tried in court.
In August 2016, as a result of a constitutional complaint filed by Asantha’s father, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka found that the Pitabaddara police station was responsible for failing to provide immediate medical attention to Asantha, which constituted ill treatment. The Supreme Court awarded compensation to Asantha, which was paid to him.
Asantha also filed a civil claim for compensation in the Morawaka District Court, which is pending to date.
On 31 October 2011, REDRESS submitted a communication to the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) on behalf of Asantha, seeking justice and reparations for his arbitrary arrest, torture and lack of effective remedy in Sri Lanka. Asantha has been assisted by REDRESS and the Asia Human Rights Commission.
On 24 November 2021, the HRC issued a decision finding Sri Lanka responsible for violating articles 7, 9 and 2(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The HRC found that the torture, the use of acid and beatings inflicted on Asantha by the truck driver, the police’s failure to protect him while in their control and to provide medical assistance, and the physical abuse by the police officers during his detention, of all which caused Asantha severe pain and permanent disability, violate his right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Further, the Committee found that Asantha’s arrest had not been reasonable and necessary, and that he was never convicted of any charges, which rendered his arrest and detention arbitrary.
Finally, the HRC concluded that Asantha did not have access to an effective remedy, as the perpetrations were never tried. Further, Asantha’s claims before the Supreme Court and Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka took many years to be resolved and the decisions only established limited liability and compensation.
As such, the HRC ordered Sri Lanka to a) conduct a thorough, impartial, independent and effective investigation into the facts; b) prosecute, try and punish those responsible for Asantha’s arbitrary arrest and ill-treatment, and make the results of such measures public; c) provide adequate compensation and appropriate measures of satisfaction to Asantha for the violations suffered; and d) take steps to prevent similar violations in the future.
Case name: Dodanpegamage Asantha Aravinda v. Sri Lanka
Court/Body: UN Human Rights Committee
Date filed: 31 October 20211
Current status: Decision reached
Legal representative: REDRESS and Asia Human Rights Commission
The HRC is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The Asia Human Rights Commission is an independent, non-governmental body, which seeks to promote greater awareness and realisation of human rights in the Asian region, and to mobilise Asian and international public opinion to obtain relief and redress for the victims of human rights violations.