Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s appointment of a well-known alleged torturer as the new Director of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), is a “gravely worrying step” the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) said in their latest press release.
Prasanna de Alwis “is named in numerous court documents in connection with torture, including the case filed by eleven Tamils in 2019 in California against Gotabaya Rajapaksa,” the ITJP stated.
Last year, the ITJP published a collection of dossiers of alleged perpetrators of torture and other violations, which included witness testimonies highlighting Prasanna de Alwis’ complicity.
“Multiple detainees have named Prasanna de Alwis as torturing them or being complicit in their torture, dating back as far as 1998,” the ITJP’s Executive Director, Yasmin Sooka said.
“Prasanna de Alwis has remained extremely loyal to Gotabaya Rajapaksa who directly issued orders to him during the war when Alwis was in the police Terrorism Investigation Division,” she added.
“Systematic torture by TID in the period when Prasanna de Alwis was based in TID headquarters has been documented by multiple United Nations mechanisms including Special Rapporteurs on Torture and the 2015 OHCHR Investigation report (OISL) into Sri Lanka,” the press release noted.
“This man is emblematic of impunity in Sri Lanka,” Ms Sooka said. “The international community is obliged to ensure that those responsible for torture are held accountable. Sri Lanka is obliged in terms of its international commitments to ensure that torturers are vetted and screened from holding public office.”
Roy Samathanam, a Tamil torture survivor, who filed a civil lawsuit against Gotabaya Rajapaksa in 2019, recounted that he overheard a phone call between Prasanna de Alwis and Gotabaya Rajapaksa while he was in TID detention in 2007.
“Later that evening, he received a particularly brutal torture session at the hands of TID officers leaving him with a swollen left wrist, injured knees, and pain in the stomach and groin area,” the ITJP said.
Prasanna de Alwis warned Roy not to tell the Red Cross about the torture he endured and was told he would be released if he signed a confession.
“Roy told Prasanna de Alwis that he wanted to see a lawyer, to which the policeman responded, ‘You can’t have a lawyer. No one can help you here.’”
“Prasanna de Alwis was also named in the Fundamental Rights Applications of several Tamil journalists detained and tortured during the war, including Vettival Jasikaram and his partner Valarmathy Vadivelu and Jayaprakash Sittampalam Tissainayagam, who was described by President Obama as emblematic of an unjustly persecuted journalist.”
“TID was under the control of Gotabaya Rajapaksa when he was defence secretary: now the same cast of characters is being promoted which should ring alarm bells to anyone dealing with Sri Lanka,” Ms Sooka said.
“We expect Leahy Laws to be applied to the CID which should not receive any US assistance. We also expect the UK government, which has been training the Sri Lankan police to stop any programmes with the CID.”
See more from the ITJP here.