By Shamindra Ferdinando
Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, had a heated argument with Ben Emmerson, QC, Special Rapporteur at the onset of a meeting over latter leveling unsubstantiated allegations at law enforcement authorities and the judiciary.
Emmerson had a series of meetings over the past few days after his unexpected encounter with the Justice Minister early this week.
At his meeting with the Justice Minister Emmerson accused the Sri Lanka police of torturing most of the suspects; he placed the number of terrorist suspects in custody at 200. Government sources told The Island that Minister Rajapakse had inquired from Emmerson who had provided such inaccurate information. The UN official attributed his information to reliable sources, prompting Minister Rajapakse to remind the visiting official that he was the Justice Minister and he spoke with responsibility.
Minister Rajapakse stressed that 71 persons held under the Prevention of terrorism Act (PTA) in respect of 46 cases were hardcore terrorists responsible for mass murder.
In response to Emmerson’s criticism of law enforcement authorities obtaining convictions through confessions, Minister Rajapakse pointed out that British Premier Theresa May’s recent vow to protect officers and men fighting terrorism at the expense of human rights laws. The minister said that it was absurd for British UN official to condemn Sri Lanka for obtaining convictions by confessions when the UK followed the same policy.
Recently human rights chief Zeid Hussein referred to accusations made by retired navy Chief of Staff Sarath Weerasekera as regards the UN turning a blind eye to Theresa May’s declaration while purusing Sri Lanka.
Addressing the media at the conclusion of his visit yesterday at the UN compound, Emmerson appreciated assurances given by Army Commander Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake and Attorney General Jayantha Jayasuriya. Many an eyebrow was raised when he referred to the recent arrest of Commodore D. K. P. Dassanayake regarding alleged war time disappearances. Emmerson said that in the wake of Lt. Gen. Senanayake’s assurance that members of armed forces who had committed crimes would be brought to justice, senior naval Commander was arrested for his alleged involvement in the disappearance of 11 persons during the closing stages of the conflict.
Emmerson on the basis of data provided by the government said that out of 81 persons currently in the judicial phase of the pre-trial detention, 70 had been in detention sans trial for over five years and 12 without trial for over 10 years.
Alleging that in spite of change of government in January 2015, the PTA was remained operational Emmerson demanded that all of them should be granted bail immediately or prosecuted within weeks or months.
Emmerson called for immediate remedial measures by way of reviewing the legality of the detention of those still held by the government and grant them fair trials. The UN official insisted that tangible measures should be taken to inquire into all accusations against the police through the appointment of an effective mechanism.