News

Reforms to make magistrates check on detainees

  • Sabry presents Criminal Procedure Act and Torture Act amendments

  • Window dressing to fool people: Sumanthiran

  • SJB’s recommendations for magistrates to inspect CCD/TID/CID rejected: Mujibur

By Pamodi Waravita

 

Minister of Justice Ali Sabry presented to Parliament yesterday (6) amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure Act No. 15 of 1979 and to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) Act No. 22 of 1994.

The amendments seek to make it obligatory for magistrates to visit police stations and other detention centres and ascertain whether the detainees are properly treated.

However, the parliamentary Opposition criticised the motives of the Government, labelling the amendments “window dressing” and claiming the Government has no “genuine” interest in reforming the law.

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Spokesperson and parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran said his party welcomes all amendments which seek to make it obligatory for magistrates to visit police stations and other detention centres and ascertain whether the detainees are properly treated. However, he questioned as to why the “window dressing” is made at the current time and sought clarifications on a mechanism which would ensure that magistrates would properly inspect prisons.

“So much for shouting from the rooftops that we are not bowing down to international pressure because I do not know who you are trying to fool. The CAT Act was passed in 1994, following which various researches have been done about its efficacy. Since then, the Act only saw nine convictions, six of which are under appeal. Research also shows that only about 10-20% actually make a complaint under this Act for fear of further mistreatment, which shows that this Act has been a dismal failure in operation. You have this Act only to show people around the world to show that torture is an offence, including these new window dressings that were presented,” said Sumanthiran.

Samagi Jana Balawegeya (SJB) MP Mujibur Rahman told The Morning that he had proposed additional amendments stating that magistrates should also be allowed to inspect the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD), the Terrorism Investigations Division (TID), and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), which were subsequently rejected at the committee stage.

“This rejection shows that the Government is not serious or genuine about making these legal reforms,” said Rahman.

The amendments to the aforementioned Acts were presented to Parliament mere weeks after the adoption of a resolution by the European Union (EU) Parliament, calling the Government of Sri Lanka to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act (PTA) and the EU Commission to consider the temporary withdrawal of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) from Sri Lanka.

Subsequently, a Cabinet Subcommittee was appointed to present recommendations with regard to the reformation of the controversial PTA to the Cabinet of Ministers within the next three months.