The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has raised deep concerns about the recent surge observed in custodial deaths and, criminal activity in many parts of the country.

In a statement, the association urged the government, together with other stakeholders, to impose stricter laws and punishments on errant police officers who misuse their power and fail to fulfill their duties.

The BASL went on to demand draft enforceable guidelines, to prevent the reoccurrence of custodial deaths, what it deemed one of the worst crimes in a civilized society under the rule of law.

Further, law enforcement authorities should take immediate steps to prevent criminal activity in order to protect the citizens, the statement emphasized.

The BASL says Sri Lanka’s legal system provides for investigation, inquiry, trial and punishment by proper authorities which is the base of democracy and the Rule of Law, and, the credibility and transparency of such process, must be diligently and fiercely preserved.

“In terms of Article 13 (4) of the Constitution, no person shall be punished with death or imprisonment except by order of a competent court. Hence, even a convicted criminal has a right to his life.”

The country’s top courts have repeatedly maintained that the extra-judicial killing of a suspect in police custody violated the right to life, despite the absence of an explicit right to life in the Constitution of Sri Lanka, the BASL said further.

Taking into account the repeated occurrence of custodial deaths, the Supreme Court in February 2023, directed the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to formulate, issue and implement, guidelines to the police, elaborating the steps that should be taken by each officer to avoid ‘encounter deaths’ in the future.

However, despite these directives, the BASL says it has observed that custodial deaths and torture continue at an alarming rate.

The association, in its statement, insists that the duty of the State is not only to safeguard the rights of citizens but also to compensate the victims and punish those who violate the law.

source adaderana