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Annual Report submitted to Parliament under
Section 30 of the Human Rights Commission Act
17.03.1997 - 30.03.1998

  1. This Commission established under the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka Act No. 21 of 1996 commenced on 17.03.1997 the date appointed by Her Excellency the President and it consisted of the following members : -

      1. O.S.M. Seneviratne - Chairman
        (Former Supreme Court Judge)

      2. Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne - Member

      3. Professor Arjuna Aluvihare - Member

      4. T. Suntheralingam - Member
        (Former High Court Judge)

      5. Ahamad Javid Yusuf - Member


  1. During the first two months after the establishment of the Commission no staff was appointed to the Commission. The preliminary work was performed by Mr. K. Jayalath who was the Secretary, two retired government clerks and a typist.

  2. It was somewhat difficult to find a suitable place for the office of the Commisison and the office was established on 1st July 1997 at No. 50, N.M. Perera Mawatha, Colombo 08 where the present Head Office is maintained. Up to that time the meetings of our Comission had to be held in the office building of the Commission for the Elimination of discrimination and Monitoring of Fundamental Rights situated at the Independence Square. During that period of about 3 months the Commissioners, while implementing the programme of the Commission, engaged in the relevant studies in respect of the special situations in the filed of Human Rights and the International courses of action.

  3. In the meantime by the Extra-ordinary Gazette Notice No. 980/15 dated 17th June 1997 the Human Rights Task Force was abolished from 30.06.1997. As the functions performed by this Task Force are to a great extent covered by the provisions of the Human Rights Commission Act, our Commission had to face the challenge of continuing the said functions. The functions conferred on the Commission in respect of the said subject are set out under sections 11 and 28 of the Commission Act (Those sections are given later in the report).

  4. The Functions of the Commission are set out in section 10 of the Human Rights Commission Act as follows:

    1. to inquire into, and investigate complaints regarding procedures, with a view to ensuring compliance with the provisions of the Constitution relating to fundamental rights and to promoting respect for, and observance of fundamental rights.

    2. to inquire into and investigate complaints regarding infringements or imminent infringements of fundamental rights, and to provide for resolution there of by conciliation and meditation in accordance with the provisions hereinafter provided.

    3. to advice and assist the government in formulating legislation and administrative directives and procedures, in furtherance of, the promotion and protection of fundamental rights.

    4. to make recommendations to the Government regarding measures which should be taken to ensure that national laws and administrative practices are in accordance with international human rights norms and standards.

    5. to make recommendations to the Government on the need to subscribe or accede to treaties and other international instruments in the filed of human rights, and

    6. to promote awareness of, and provide education in relation to, human rights.

5.1 The powers of the Commission are set out under Sections 11 and 28 as follows :-

1.1 For the purpose of discharging its functions the Commission may exercise any or all of the following powers:-

    1. investigate any infringement or imminent or imminent infringement or fundamental rights in accordance with the succeeding provisions of this Act;

    2. appoint such number of sub-committees at Provincial level, as it considers necessary to exercise such powers of the Commission as may be delegated to them by the Commission under this Act;

    3. intervene in any proceedings relating to the infringement or imminent infringement of fundamental rights, pending before any court, with the permission of such court;

    4. monitor the welfare of persons detained either by a judicial order or otherwise, by regular inspection of their places of detention, and to make such recommendations as may be necessary for improving their conditions of detention;

    5. take such steps as it may be directed to take by the Supreme Court, in respect of any matter referred to it by the Supreme Court;

    6. undertake research into, and promote awareness of human rights, by conducting programmes, seminars and workshops and to disseminate and distribute the results of such research;

    7. award in its absolute discretion to an aggrieved person or a person acting on behalf of an aggrieved person, such sum of money as is sufficient to meet the expenses that may have been reasonably incurred by him in making a complaint to the Commission under section 14;

    8. Do all other things as are necessary or conducive to the discharge of its functions.

    1. Where a person is arrested or detained under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, No. 48 of 1979 or a regulation made under the Public Security Ordinance, (Chapter 40) it shall be the duty of the person making such arrest or order of detention, as the case may, to forthwith and in any case not later than forty-eight hours from the time of such arrest or detention, inform the Commission of such arrest or detention as the case may be and the place at which the person so arrested or detained is being held in custody or detention. Where a person so held in custody or detention is released or transferred to another place or detention, it shall be the duty of the person making the order for such release or transfer, as the case may be, and in the case of transfer, to inform the Commission of the location of the new place of detention.

    2. Any person authorised by the Commission in writing amy enter at any time, any place of detention, police station, prison or any other place in which any person is detained by a judicial order or otherwise, and make such examinations therein or make such inquiries from any person found therein, as may be necessary to ascertain the conditions of detention of the persons detained therein.

    3. Any person on whom a duty is imposed by subsection (1), and who wilfully omits to inform the Commission as required by subsection (1), or who resists or obstructs an officer authorised under subsection (1) in the exercise by that officer of the powers conferred on him by that subsection, shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction after summary trial by a Magistrate, be liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or to a fine not exceeding five thousand rupees, or to both such fine and imprisonment.

  1. The Commission for the purpose of performing its functions continues to engage on a temporary basis in the Head Office and 10 Regional Offices tha staff (except the senior officers) who had been under the aforesaid Task Force which was abolished on 8th January 1998. A Regional Office was opened in the Jaffna Area also and by March 1998 the following Regional Officers were functioning under the Commission.


    2. Ampara

    3. Badulla

    4. Batticaloa

    5. Kandy

    6. Kalmunai

    7. Trincomalee

    8. Vavuniya

    9. Matara

    10. Jaffna

    Another Regional Office is to be established at the Mannar Town within this year.

  1. The main functions performed by our Regional Officers are as follows:-

    1. to visit the Police Station and detention centres and inquire about persons arrested or detained;

    2. to see to their welfare;

    3. to conduct preliminary investigations into infringement or imminent infringement or fundamental rights.

    4. to conduct educational programmes/seminars to promote the awareness of Human Rights.

  1. The investigations officers in our Regional Offices regularly visit police stations, army camps and detention camps in those areas and find out information regarding the detainees and/or persons under arrest who are there. Furthermore they conduct urgent inquiries from time to time on information received from certain complainants about arrests and torture and provide necessary relief forthwith according to the circumstances.

In these activities the availability of the necessary transport facilities for the officers was an important factor for the success of their activities. During the period under review specially for the last 7 or 8 months there were no official vehicles for the use of 3 Regional Offices.

The particulars of investigations made by these Regional Officers by visiting Police Stations are given in annexure A-2.

The particulars of investigations done by Regional Offices by visiting detention camps are given in annexure A-2.

  1. Arrest or taking into custody

  2. Certain powers in relation to arresting persons etc. are conferred on the Commission and the provisions under section 28 of the Commission Act are set out under 05.01 above.

9.1 The fulfilment of the above requirements were mostly done by the armed forces and the police but in certain cases there were instances where it was not done due to certain reasons.

    For the purpose of obtaining the assistance of the forces and for ensuring the proper implementation of the aforesaid provisions a series of directions were issued under the signature of Her Excellency the President, Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and Minister of Defence, to the Police. A copy thereof is annexed marked annexure A-3.

  1. Complaints regarding missing persons.

  2. The war situation that prevailed in the last few years in the Northern and Eastern Provinces continued further. A considerable number of complaints regarding disappearances from those areas and some disappearance form other areas had been received at out Head Office and Regional Offices. Out Investigation Officers conducted investigations into these and traced a considerable number of missing persons.

    The statistics in relation to persons who were missing and traced in this way are given in Annexure A-4.

    One feature which appears in respect of these complaints is that some of those disappearances do not belong to the period of last 12 months and sometimes those disappearances do not belong to a period 2/3 years prior to that. This fact is specially seen in respect of the complaints received.

10.1 Complaints received from International Bodies in relation to disappearances.

In the 2nd half of the year 1997a request has been made to the Sri Lanka Government by the United Nations Organisations regarding the fate and whereabouts of 600 missing persons. Inquiries in relation to a part of the aforesaid missing persons had been concluded by a board of Investigation of the Defence Ministry.

Requests were received from the Foreign Ministry at our Commission to make inquiries and take action about the rest. Our Jaffna Regional Office is conducting relevant investigation on the said requests. The number of persons in relation to whom the commission is making investigations in 277.

Our Jaffna Office is conducting investigations under the difficult conditions prevailing in the areas. By now the number of persons traced out of the persons complained to have disappeared by that office is 16.


10.2 The complaint regarding the alleged disappearance of 6 persons at 'Unnichchei'.

A complaint made by the German Embassy in Sri Lanka to the Foreign Ministry and forwarded to us alleged that 6 persons had been taken into custody at the aforesaid place and that they have disappeared. In this respect an investigation was conducted on the directions of Mr. T. Suntheralingam, Member of the Commission and a report has been forwarded to the Foreign Ministry. From the information revealed at the inquiry such a disappearance has not been established.

11. Other complaints received by the Commission.

Under Section 14 of the Human Rights Commission Act the Commission is authorised to receive complaints of infringement of fundamental rights.

14. The Commission may, on its own motion or on a complaint made to it by an aggrieved person or group of persons or a person acting on behalf of an aggrieved person or a group of persons, investigate an allegation of the ingringement or imminent infringement of a fundamental right of such person or group of persons caused:-

(a) by executive or administrative action, or

(b) as a result of an act which constituted an offence under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, No. 48 of 1979, committed by any person.

11.1 A large number of complaints falling into this category has been received during the past period at the office of the Commission. Further to these complaints, the Commission for Elimination of Discrimination and Monitoring of Fundamental Rights which was in operation earlier and now abolished has handed over to us a considerable number of complaints that had been received by that Commission.

These complaints and the number of complaints referred to earlier and received by our commission within the year ended 31st March 1998 are given below.

Type of Complaints


1. Complaints received from the earlier Commission


2. Appeals received from the said Commission


3. Complaints received from 01.04.1997 to 31. 03.1998


4. Complaints received from the Supreme Court


5. Complaints received against the Armed Forces and the Police


Further information about this is set out in Schedule A-5.

11.2 A Schedule setting out all the matters (complaints made to the Commission and the action and the action taken thereon) has been included in this report as annexure 'A-5'.

11.3 Regarding the matters forwarded to the Commission are considered the proposals made are set out in the last page of this report.

12. Educational Programmes relating to Human Rights.

The promotion of understanding of Human Rights and the implementation of an Educational Programme are important function to this Commission. In this respect there was no possibility of implementing a programme at National level in this year. The main reason for this was the lack of experienced staff in the Commission for this purpose. But educational programme were conducted by the Regional Offices and the particulars are as follows:-







The Commission intends to implement extensive educational and development programmes in the coming year.

13. Foreign Assistance

During the past few months the representatives of the American Embassy and United States aid Office situated at Colombo came several times to our office and they showed a great interest in giving assistance. They donated a stock of equipment and furniture including 22 Motor Cycles for investigation officers of this Commission. The value of these furniture and equipment received in February 1998 is about Rs. 2.3 million.

14. Development in the field of Human Rights.

On 3rd October 1997 Sri Lanka signed the optional agreement relating to United Nations Civil and Political Rights. Along with this Sri Lanka consented to the declaration limiting the scopes of investigation of complaints relating to infringement of Human Rights to the period after 3rd January 1997.

The 49th commemoration of the United Nations Human Rights Declaration fell on 10th December 1997. In this respect our Commission conducted a series of seminars on Human Rights on a regional basis.

15. The interest shown by the international community.

During the past period foreign institutions and organisations have shown a great interest in the field of Human Rights. During the period of the past 12 months about 23 foreign missions have come to the office of this Commission and held discussions.

Embassy Officials of several countries including Great Britain, the United States of America, Germany and Switzerland, Assistant Secretary of State of the United States, a delegation from the German Parliament, delegation of Human Rights Organisations of Bangladesh and Australia were among these foreign missions. It appeared to us that it is very useful to exchange ideas and information among these groups.

16. Organisation & Staff

During the first few months after the establishment of the Commission a permanent staff was not appointed. During this period the staff consisted of a Secretary and 3 clerks who worked on a temporary basis. About 70 members of the staff who were working on a temporary contract basis under the Human Rights Task Force abolished on 30th June 1997 were employed in the Commission on the same basis. In September 1997, 3 Legal Officers, at the end of October 1997 a Secretary and from January 1998 an Accountant were recruited to the permanent staff.

As stated earlier the majority of the staff was employed on a short-term contract basis because it was necessary to have a clear understanding of the progress of this Commission, which is a new institution. Already a section of the aforesaid employees have been included in the permanent staff and it is intended to complete the appointment of the employees to permanent posts gradually within the next two months.

16.1 For the purpose of supervising the duties of the staff of the Commission, two Commissioners T. Suntheralingam and A. Javid Yusuf are functioning in addition to the full time Chairman. This was effected on a decision of the Board of Directors (Commissioners) has not been appoint 2 full time Directors (Commissioners) has not been approved yet.

16.2 The number of complaints received at the Commission is increasing and accordingly the Commission is burdened with a heavy load of work. A proposal to appoint a permanent staff to fulfil our responsibilities as best as we can has been forwarded to the government and is receiving attention.

17. Future programmes

17.1 It has been decided to establish the 11th Regional Office of the Commission in the Mannar Town and it is intended to commence operations within a few months.

17.2 At present a considerable length of time is taken to investigate the complaints received at the Commission. According to Section 16(1) of the Act, action is now being taken to appoint 15 arbitrators to investigate and settle the complaints and to obtain their services. In the coming few months steps will be taken to extend that services and to expedite the solutions in respect of the complaints.

  1. The proposals of the Commission.

Having regard to the experience and observations of the Commission during the past year the proposals forwarded by the Commission are as follows:-

    1. In respect of the field of infringement of fundamental rights the Commission has been authorised in terms of Act No. 21 of 1996 to investigate and settle the complaints received in relation thereto and to take steps to make recommendations to relevant authorities and to take legal steps through courts. Even in case of minor the same procedure has to be adopted. Due to this situation it has been difficult to take effective action within a short time in the case of a minor infringement like a minor economic loss of damage to one's reputation.

    2. As a remedy to this situation, it is suggested that in respect of matters where the loss or damage resulting from the infringement is minor, it will help to make the action in relation to fundamental rights more meaningful and effective if the Commission is given the power to decide the matter after investigation and to enforce its decision.

    3. Staff and facilities necessary for the Commission:- The Commission receives a large number of complaints and an adequate trained staff is required to attend to those complaints. During the last year the functions of the Commission were performed with the help of a staff who were employed on a temporary contract basis. In recruiting the necessary staff the Commission has to follow the procedure relevant to other Corporation through the President's Office and get it approved. It has to recruit the employees by following the rules and regulations relating to scheme of recruitment. This is a process which takes a considerable period of time. If the Commission gets the authority to recruit the staff deemed to be necessary for carrying out its duties, it will be possible to expedite these activities.

    4. Fixing of a period for complaints.

The Act has not prescribed a time limit from the date an infringement or imminent infringement is revealed before which a complaint should be made. As it appears that it is necessary to fix a reasonable time limit for this purpose it is suggested that a period of 180 days be fixed for this purpose.

  1. According to section 30 of the Act our Commission should forward an annual report to Parliament and all the activities of the Commission during the year to which the report relates should be included in it. Further a list of all the matters referred to the Commission, the courses of action taken in that respect and recommendation of the Commission on each of those matters should be included there.

  2. As set out in paragraph 11 of page 7 above as a large number of matters have been referred from the earlier Commission for the Elimination of Discriminating and Monitoring of Fundamental Rights and thereafter a large number of complaints have been directly received from the public. I regret to inform that it has been practically very difficult to include a list of all the matters referred to our Commission. Furthermore our Commission has not made a recommendation so far to Her Excellency the President or the Parliament.

  3. When referring to the activities of our commission we like to make special mention of its first Secretary Mr. K. Jayalath who was very helpful in the establishment of the Commission by doing the preliminary work including the finding of a building for the head of the commission. We are thankful to him for the service rendered by him. Further our thanks go to the staff of the commission, Mr. Wijegoonawardana, Secretary, Late Mr. P.G. Piyasena and Mr. R.A. Robert Perera the Pioneer officers of the commission office and the staff of the head office, the staff of the regional offices who give me Valuable co-operation in my task as Chairman.

O.S.M. Seneviratne
Human Rights Commission



The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of

Sri Lanka


No. 980/15 - Tuesday, June 17, 2000

(Published by Authority)

Government Notification


REGULATION made by the PRESIDENT under Section 5 of the
Public Security Ordinance (Chapter 40)


17th June 1997


  1. The Emergency (Establishment of the Human Rights Task Force) Regulation No. 1 of 1995 published in the Gazette Extraordinary No. 874/8 of June 07.19995 and deemed to be in force by virtue of Section 2 A of the Public Security Ordinance, is hereby rescinded with effect from June 30, 1997.

  2. All movable property of the Human Rights Task Force established under the Emergency (Establishment of the Human Rights Task Force) Regulations No. 1 of 1995 shall with effect from June 30, 1997 vest in the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka established by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka Act, No. 21 of 1996.


    No. of Police Station Visits No. of Detention Camps Visits No. of Detainees seen





Head Office 389 05
58 1441 14 1513
Vavuniya 57 73
02 368 01 3714
Matara 299 23
Nil Nil Nil Nil
Trincomalee 84 15
02 350 13 365
Batticaloa 34 26
Nil 407 07 414
Anuradhapura 142 03
Nil 02 Nil Nil
Badula 35 02
02 666 Nil 668
Kalmunai 79 128
01 49 Nil 50
Kandy 59 06
Nil 26 Nil 26
Ampara 59 05
Nil 08 Nil 08
Jaffna 03 05
19 08 Nil 27
Total 1240 291
84 33320 35 3444



I, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Minister of Defence being of opinion that it is necessary to issue directions to the Heads of the Armed Forces and the Police Force to enable the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (herein after referred to as the ‘HRC’) to exercise and perform its powers, functions and duties and for the purpose of ensuring that fundamental rights of persons arrested or detained are respected and such persons are treated humanely, do hereby direct, the Heads of the Armed Forces and of the Police as follows:

  1. Every member of the Armed Forces and of the Police Force shall assist and facilitate the HRC and any person authorised by the HRC in the exercise of its powers, duties and functions and also ensure that the fundamental rights of persons arrested or detained are respected.

  2. No person shall be arrested or detained under any Emergency Regulation or the Prevention of Terrorism Act No. 48 of 1979 except in accordance with the law and proper procedure and by a person who is authorised by law to make such arrest or order such detention.

  3. At or about the time of the arrest or if it is not possible in the circumstances, immediately thereafter as circumstances permit.

    1. the person making the arrest or detention shall identify himself to the person arrested or any relative or friend of such person upon inquiry being made, by name and rank;

    2. every person arrested or detained shall be informed of the reason for the arrest;

    3. the person making the arrest or detention shall issue, to the spouse, father, mother or any other close relation as the case may be a document in such form as specified by the Secretary to the Ministry of the Minister in charge of the arresting officer, the time and date of arrest and the place at which the person will be detained shall also be specified. It shall be the duty of the holder of such document to return the same to, or produce the same before, the appropriate authority when the person so arrested or detained is released from custody;

    4. Provided that, where any person is taken into custody and it is not possible to issue a document as set out above, it shall be the duty of the arresting officer, if such officer is a police officer, to make an entry in the information Book giving reasons as to why it is not possible to so issue a document, and if the arresting officer is a member of the Armed Forces to report the reasons why it is not possible to issue a document to the officer in charge of the police station whose duty it shall be to make an entry of such fact along with the reasons therefor in the Information Book.

    5. The persons arrested shall be afforded reasonable means of communication with a relative or friend to enable his whereabouts being known to his family.

  1. When a child under 12 years or a woman is sought to be arrested or detained, a person of their choice should be allowed to accompany such child or woman to the place of questioning. As far as possible any such child or woman so sought to be arrested or detained should be placed in the custody of a Women’s Unit of the Armed Forces or the Police Force or in the custody of another woman military or police officer.

  2. A statement of a person arrested or detained should be recorded in the language of that person’s choice who should thereafter be asked to sign the statement. A person who desires to make a statement in his or her own handwriting should be permitted to do so.

  3. (i) The member of the HRC or any person authorised by it should be permitted access to the person arrested or detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act No. 48 of 1979 or under a Regulation made under the Public Security Ordinance (Chapter 40) and should be permitted to enter at any time any place of detention, police station or any other place in which such person is detained in custody or confined.

  1. Every officer who makes an arrest or order of detention as the case may be, shall forthwith, and in any case not later than forty-eight hours from the time of such arrest or detention, inform the HRC or any person specially authorised by the HRC, of such arrest or detention as the case may be, and the place at which the person so arrested or detained is being held in custody or detention.

July 31st 1997



  No. of Missing Persons Number Traced
Head Office 76 16
Vavuniya 142 104
Matara Nil Nil
Trincomalee 76 16
Batticaloa 204 62
Anuradhapura Nil Nil
Baddulla 04 03
Kalmunai 09 02
Kandy 04 Nil
Ampara 02 Nil
Jaffna 325 16
TOTAL 842 219

No. of complaints against the armed forces and other authorities

       Complaints Against the Police & Armed Forces Other Complaints Total Action initiated/
Head Office 331 2641 2973 856
Vavuniya 245 57 302 298
Matara 46 16 62 59
Trincomalee 151 04 155 150
Batticaloa 24 11 35 30
Anuradhapura 30 42 72 68
Baddulla 86 80 166 154
Kalmunai 84 32 116 104
Kandy 169 166 335 250
Ampara 68 20 88 85
Jaffna 45 02 47 45
Total 1279 3071 4350 2099





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