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Bar Association to help police brutality victims

a year ago

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  • Launches legal aid unit to address torture and custodial deaths 
BY Pamodi Waravita  The Bar Association of Sri Lanka’s (BASL) Legal Aid Committee yesterday (29) launched the Anti-Torture Unit in adherence to the BASL’s commitment to stopping incidents of torture, custodial deaths and Police brutality. “Many years ago, during the 1980s, the BASL had a Legal Aid Foundation. Many thousands of people benefitted from that service then. This came to a halt some time later. After several years, we are now launching this Anti-Torture Unit. When we looked at the options we had, we realised that torture, deaths in custody, and police brutality are some things that we are seriously committed to stopping. It is an important aspect of the rule of law,” BASL President President’s Counsel (PC) Saliya Pieris said yesterday, during the launch of the unit. Pieris PC said that the BASL will introduce a hotline, manned by volunteers, who will take down the complaints. The unit will also co-ordinate with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL). “We hope that young lawyers will also get involved in this unit and that we will be able to train them. If we are to curb custodial torture, it will also have to reach the level of magistrate’s  ourts. Thus, we will be introducing one slot in our legal education seminars to train lawyers about this matter at that level. This endeavour is in line with the private and unofficial Bar’s consistent commitment to stopping torture and custodial violence,” said Pieris PC. Supreme Court (SC) Judge Justice S. Thurairaja PC, who was the Chief Guest at yesterday’s event, said that more accountability at the higher levels means that the more the people at the ground level are safeguarded. Thurairaja PC noted that torture exists at many institutions, including within the Police Department, the Prisons Department, and universities. “Torture also takes many forms such as psychological and physical forms. Thus, this is a timely gesture by the BASL.”

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