Attack on journalists; STF chief at HRCSL

"Transfer STF's Romesh Liyanage until investigation into attack on News 1st reporters is concluded" - Human Rights Commission tells IGP

by Teena Marian 02-08-2022 | 11:43 AM

COLOMBO (News 1st); The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has recommended to the IGP to transfer SSP Romesh Liyanage of the Special Task Force outside Colombo until investigations into the attack on News1st journalists is concluded.

This is according to a signed statement by Human Rights Commission Chairperson Retired Judge of the Supreme Court Justice Rohini Marasinghe.

The statement says the commission summoned the Commandant of the Special Task Force DIG Waruna Jayasundera and Director STF, SSP Romesh Liyanage, and SSP DS Wickremasinghe of the Special Investigation Unit to make statements relating to the assault on the media personnel of the 'Sirasa' news channel on the 9th of July 2022 at and near 5th lane Colombo 03.

The statement explains that the investigation revealed that SSP Romesh Liyanage was the Unit Commander deployed for security at and near the private residence of the current President on 5th Lane, adding that there were 140 STF personnel under the Command of SSP Liyanage. 

Justice Rohini Marasinghe's statement reads: "It is also not in doubt that the media personnel posed no threat to the Police on that day. And the assault on the media was unjustified and intentional after being identified as media personnel by the STF and Police."

The statement further notes that these officers of the STF who had assaulted the media were under the direct command of SSP Liyanage, who denied being present at the time of the assault and denied any knowledge of the assault on the media personnel. The commission statement says SSP Liyanage was shown video footage which was admitted as footage of the particular event. According to the statement, there is serious doubt regarding the credibility of the evidence given by SSP Liyanage to the HRCSL on oath. 

The Human Rights Commission statement, signed by Justice Rohini Marasinghe, clearly states that SSP Liyanage is unequivocally responsible for the attack on the media personnel on the 9th of July, adding that "This is a gross violation of the people's fundamental rights and, importantly, of the rights of the free media, which is an integral part of every democracy." The statement adds further, "This irresponsible behaviour from the high ranks of Law enforcement officials is severe, detrimental, and dangerous for the safety of a just society."

The statement goes on to note, "The Officer handling the disciplinary inquiry informed that the perpetrators are yet to be identified, and identifying them in the current uniform is no easy task." According to the commission, one of the major setbacks is the identity of the assailant for the police investigation. Therefore, the commission recommends to the IGP that the camouflage uniform in the present description is not the proper uniform for civil operation.

Justice Rohini Marasinghe's statement says the IGP must take cognizance of the uniform currently worn by the STF for civilian operation and take appropriate action to have a proper uniform, especially for civic duty.

The Human Rights Commission of SL statement, signed by Justice Rohini Marasinghe, states that it was informed that the SIU is currently conducting an inquiry, into the matter. The statement called for an independent and impartial inquiry. It adds that in order to facilitate such an inquiry, it is recommended to the IGP to transfer the SSP Liyanage to any other branch in the STF outside Colombo until the conclusion of the police investigation.