The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) informed that officials of the Commission or any person authorized by it should be permitted access to persons arrested, detained in custody or confined under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
The HRCSL noted that they should be permitted to enter, at any time, any place of detention (only to be held at gazetted authorized detention centres), Police station or any other place at which such person was detained in custody or confined.
Issuing directives based on the Directives on Arrest and Detention issued by previous heads of State and binding international human rights law standards to be followed by designated officials arresting persons under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, No. 48 of 1979 in order to ensure that the fundamental rights of the persons arrested or detained are respected and protected, and such persons are treated humanely, the HRCSL observed that the PTA should be construed narrowly and used in very specific circumstances, and should not be used to arrest persons for ordinary crimes.
The HRCSL directives addressed aspects concerning the arrest process, the process to be followed after the arrest, and special measures related to the arrest of women and persons under 18 years and highlighted that the HRCSL should be informed of arrests and detentions and the place of custody and detention under the PTA and of any transfers or releases.
“These directives should be equally applicable to any situation of a declared state of public emergency. Arrests or detentions under the PTA or orders for such must be in accordance with the law, must follow proper procedure, and must only be done by legally authorized persons. The person making the arrest should identify himself/herself by name and rank and show identification to the person being arrested or a relative or a friend of such person. The reason for the arrest must be informed to the arrestee. The person making the arrest or detention shall issue to the spouse, parents, or relations, an arrest receipt acknowledging the fact of arrest. Seizure of property must be notified in a similar manner. The time and date of arrest, and the place at which the person will be detained shall also be specified. The receipt shall be attested by the person to whom the receipt is issued, and be counter signed by the arrestee, whose name, address, identity card number and reason for arrest shall also be stated in the receipt. The receipt shall be issued in the language that the arrested person ordinarily uses. Where it is not possible to issue an arrest receipt, the arresting officer, if a Police officer, shall make an entry in the Information Book detailing reasons why it was not possible to issue the receipt. The arrested or detained person shall be allowed to communicate with a family member, relative or friend to inform of his/her whereabouts if person is arrested when not in the presence of family or relatives. Searches of the arrested must be done with due respect to dignity and care for the right to privacy, without force or aggression,” chairperson of the HRCSL Dr. Deepika Udugama outlined.