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The National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights 2011 – 2016 as well as the full series of  Sri Lanka Rights Watch are available at the Peace & Reconciliation Website.

The Task Force held another consultation last week with regard to safeguards against Torture. We had gone into this at some length at a meeting of all Ministries particularly concerned with Rights Protection, and this had been followed by a discussion chaired by the Inspector General of Police, which had however also dealt with other matters such as the dissemination of information regarding police duties and responsibilities.

.. to make sure that there was provision for observation with regard to anyone the police took in ..

It was thought best, following that meeting, to have a smaller consultation as to particular issues, and we were helped immensely by the presence of those in the Attorney General’s Department who had been dealing with torture problems for a long period, extending back to well before I became Secretary to the Ministry of Human Rights and began to study the problem, following the extremely helpful visit of Manfred Nowak, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

Unfortunately the former Attorney General, Mohan Pieris, could not attend the latter consultation though we had actually shifted the date to accommodate him. This was a pity because he had been full of good ideas at the meeting chaired by the Inspector General of Police, and agreement had been reached in a number of areas which he agreed to pursue to ensure quick action.

Amongst his innovative ideas was the concept of Duty Attorneys to be available at all police stations to which anyone was brought for questioning. At present there are State Counsel assigned to I believe every High Court area, but their duties are not clear, and they certainly do not perform the watchdog role that is required as a protection against possible abuse while people are being questioned.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

June 2012
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