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Asian Human Rights Commission urges action over Tamil boy killed by Sri Lanka's STF

The Asian Human Rights Commission in a statement on Thursday urged action over the death of a Tamil boy who was killed during a police chase by Sri Lanka's Special Task Force. 

"The Asian Human Rights Commission has received information about Mr. Sathasivam Madisam of Karadiyanaru in the Batticaloa District," the AHRC said in its statement. 

"On 24 July, Sathasivam along with his brother and several other friends went to the Mundeniyaru Lagoon to swim. While they were in the water, they observed large numbers of STF officers with weapons approaching the area. All the boys were frightened. The officers then started shooting into the air. The boys ran away as fast as they could. Sathasivam and his brother ran along the bank of the lagoon and both fell into the water. Though several boys tried to rescue Sathasivam, the officers prevented them."

"Several minutes later, the bodies of Sathasivam and his brother started floating on top of the water. The officers took both victims to the Chenkaladi Government Hospital. Sathasivam was pronounced dead on arrival. His brother, in a life-threatening situation, was admitted to the hospital for treatment, on an emergency basis."

"Later, the Police issued a Communiqué saying that the SFT officers were on a raid to locate illegal sand- mining in the area. However, they did not explain why STF officers were called instead of Karadiyanaru Police Station officers and why they fired their weapons when a peaceful situation existed in the area the whole time."

The AHRC disputed police reports that the boys had been engaged in illegal sand mining. 

"No evidence of any kind was produced to prove that Sathasivam was engaged in illegal sand-mining at the time of the incident. Relatives and the villagers vehemently protested the illegal actions of the police. They demanded an independent, impartial investigation into the killing. The victim’s relatives maintain that he was extra-judicially killed by the STF officers. This is another example of a gravely faulty Policing System in Sri Lanka. It murders innocent suspects under the guise of crime prevention."

Highlighting the routine use of torture by the Sri Lankan police, the AHRC further added:

"The Asian Human Rights Commission has reported many cases of arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and extrajudicial killings of citizens at the hands of the Sri Lankan Police. Under international and local law, these are illegal actions. They have been taking place daily at police stations all over Sri Lanka. It is common knowledge that the Police use torture as an instrument to terrorize innocent people, harass the general public and instill fear. Presently, the Police are implementing a policy of ‘elimination with extreme persuasion’ or in plain language--murdering suspected criminals. They arrest and kill people without their ever being produced in a Court of Law.

Needless to say, there is a lack of protection for those lawyers willing to take up cases against abusive Police Officers and State Authorities. This means that the law continues to be employed as a tool by the Authorities to control the population. By undermining society’s respect for the Law and allowing impunity to go on unabated, a long-term, psychological and financial burden is placed on the shoulders of victims, their families and the general population."