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SRI LANKA: A human rights defender denied of fundamental right to a fair hearing and tortured


22 February 2003

UA-09-2003: A human rights defender denied of fundamental right to a fair hearing and tortured

SRI LANKA: Right to a fair hearing and torture


While presenting his petition before the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, Mr. Anthony Michael Fernando was convicted and imprisoned under contempt of court. His fundamental right to a fair trial was violated as one of the respondents to Mr. Fernando's claim sat in judgment on him, thereby undermining international norms of judicial objectivity. Furthermore, credible evidence exists to show that Mr. Fernando was tortured while being taken to prison. He submitted a complaint of torture and is presently hospitalized, under remand custody.


On 6 February 2003, while Mr. Anthony Michael Fernando was presenting a writ before the court, he was convicted by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka for contempt of court and sentenced to one-year's rigorous imprisonment. The Court, however, violated several of Mr. Fernando's fundamental rights embodied within the Sri Lankan Constitution and the ICCPR. Though legally entitled, he never obtained a charge sheet clearly stating the offence, possible punishment, summary of the evidence against him, legal advice prior to conviction, sufficient time to prepare his case, a judgment containing the factual and legal basis on which it had been arrived at, and the right to appeal the court's decision.

Moreover, Mr. Fernando was denied a fair hearing because one of the presiding judges was respondent to Mr. Fernando's claim, thereby undermining judicial impartiality. It is a well-accepted norm that judges should not only be impartial but also be seen to be impartial. The purpose of contempt of court proceeding is to enhance the prestige of the court; this judgment has done the contrary.

Furthermore, evidence exist that Mr. Fernando was tortured while being taken to prison. He was hospitalized in the Prison Hospital and then taken to the Intensive Care Unit of the General Hospital suffering from spinal injuries. Mr. Fernando is presently hospitalized and chained under remand custody, and thereby curtailing the possibility of an effective inquiry of his case. AHRC has been informed that he has not been provided with proper medical care or clothing. Despite official claims, his family still does not have proper access to Mr. Fernando. Mr. Fernando has stated that attempts have been made to fabricate evidence and to deny that injuries to his spinal cord were due to an assault while he was being taken to prison. On 16 February 2003, he submitted a complaint of torture; AHRC has studied his case and is satisfied that there exists a credible complaint that this case must be investigated by a credible and impartial body.


Please write to the express your grave concern regarding the use of torture on Mr. Fernando and the Supreme Court's violation of Mr. Fernando's right to a fair hearing.

Sample Letter

Torture and Imprisonment

I am really shocked to learn about both the torture Mr. Anthony Michael Emmanuel Fernando received while in prison custody and the nature of the legal proceedings that led to his one-year prison sentence. The decision needs revision both on legal and humanitarian grounds. Besides, the seriously injured patient needs medical and family care. The animal like treatment given to the victim in this case violates all his rights and norms of decency. I urge that the Supreme Court on its own take initiative to squash this judgment and if it thinks fit to have a fresh inquiry guaranteeing the rights of the aggrieved party within the Sri Lankan law and under the international obligations of Sri Lanka, that Mr. Fernando be freed from prison custody, to obtain proper medical care he is now in dire need due to the assault perpetrated on him; that a credible investigating body be appointed to investigate the complaint in relation to torture and the potential conspiracy in perpetrating such torture; that UN bodies dealing with human rights and international human rights organizations, human rights defenders organizations take this as a matter of serious concern with the Sri Lanka Government.

1. Hon. Chief Justice S. N. Silva,
Office of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka
Superior Courts Complex, Colombo-12, Sri Lanka,
Fax: +94-1-320785

2. Dato' Param Cumaraswamy,
Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers
UN Centre for Human Rights,
United Nations Office, Palais des Nations, CH-1211,
Geneva 10, Switzerland,
Tel: +4122-917 3945
Fax: +4122-917 0022

3. Registrar of the Supreme Court
Supreme Court of Sri Lanka
Superior Courts Complex, Colombo-12, Sri Lanka,
Telephone: +94-1-435446.
Fax: +94-1-320785

4. Her Excellency President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga,
President's House, Colombo 3,
Sri Lanka.
Fax: + 94 1 333703,

5. His Excellency Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe
Prime Minister of Sri Lanka
Cambridge Place
Colombo 7
Fax: +94-1-682905
E-mail: or
SALUTATION: Hon. Prime Minister

6. Mr. Ranjith Abeysuriya PC
National Police Commission
No. 4, Shavasthi Place,
Colombo 7
Fax: +94-1-674 148
SALUTATION: Dear Commissioner

7. Hon. Mr. K.C. Kamalasabesan
Attorney General
Attorney General's Department
Colombo 12
Fax: +94-1-436 421
Email: | or |
SALUTATION: Dear Attorney General

8. Mr. T. E. Anandrajah
Inspector General of Police (IGP)
New Secretariat
Colombo 1,
Fax: +94-1-446174
SALUTATION: Dear Inspector General of Police

9. Sri Lanka's diplomatic representatives in your country.

Posted on 2003-02-22
Asian Human Rights Commission
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