HRCSL holds IGP in breach of duty

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The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) revealed that IGP C.D. Wickremaratne was in breach of duty by failing to provide adequate protection to the peaceful protesters on 9 May and to uphold the rule of law.

The HRCSL had appointed a team of Special Rapporteurs to investigate and report on whether adequate protection had been given to the peaceful protesters, protesting opposite the Temple Trees and Galle Face Green and whether the Law Enforcement officials took all reasonable steps necessary to uphold the rule of law on 9 May.

ln conducting the inquiry, the Commission of Inquiry had called a number of officers of the Police Department, including the IGP and Senior Officers of the Police, the Army Commander, the Senior Officers of the State Intelligence Unit, while also having called for CCTV footage and all documentary evidence.

It was revealed that the Police could not accurately ascertain the speeches of the parliamentarians and the other State and non-State officials inside the Temple Trees and that the failure to obtain this crucial information was attributed to the Intelligence unit under the Secretary of the Defence Ministry.

“The State Intelligence Unit, once equipped with all the information relevant to the security of the people, must transmit it to the lGP, who will then communicate it to his officers. Although the officers appear to have been briefed by the IGP of an impending attack, by the pro-governmental crowd, the miscalculation or erroneous information received by the IGP appears to have later contributed to this violent attack,” HRCSL noted.

They added that it is also conceded that there was an inherent duty of the senior officers to address the situation on the ground, but it was subject to the final supervision of the lGP.

“As a matter of principle, in any hierarchical structure, whether Police or Military or Governmental or political, it is, of course, possible and even necessary that the Head of the Department delegate decision-making authority to his subordinates. They are typically “on the ground” closer to the unfolding events and facts. They typically have specialised in their respective sector, which the Head of the Department does not have. However, what cannot be delegated is the ultimate responsibility of the Head of the Department, in this case, the lGP, for everything that happens under his watch, including the actions or non-actions of his subordinates,” HRCSL stated.

Citing the report, HRCSL observed that it is also apparent and absolute that, in this case, the SDlGs, DIGS and SSPs including Western Province SDIG DeshabanduTennakoon and all other senior officers who were on duty, must obey and implement orders or directives given by their superior, the lGP.

“It is certainly not proper, perhaps even illegal, if the ‘Superior Officer in Charge’, in this case, Tennakoon consults directly with the Chief of his Chief, the President, without first consulting or reverting back to his direct superior the lGP, adding that this would disrupt the whole hierarchical system of the chain of command and has undoubtedly the potential to disrupt the whole operation’’ HRCSL said.

The inquiry revealed that Tennakoon, when he received instructions from the IGP through another officer over the telephone, had called the IGP before he called the President. Therefore, it is conceded that the call to the President by the SDIG Tennakoon in this instance was legal and proper.

‘’ln these circumstances, as elicited in the report, the IGP was clearly in breach of duty by failing to provide adequate protection to the peaceful protesters and to uphold the rule of law’’ HRCSL stated.

The team recommended that the President directs an investigation into this aspect of the matter and take necessary steps to ensure that such actions by the Head of the Police Department will not occur in the future.

It was also recommended for the President to direct an investigation into the lapse on the part of all the senior Police officers, including the IGP downwards, who were on duty at the protesting sites in Colombo for their inability to provide adequate protection to the peaceful protesters on 9 May 2022.

HRCSL further noted that if victims can be identified, the Police have to adequately compensate them for the injuries suffered.