Baton raised, this is the shock moment a Sri Lankan police officer unleashes a savage beating on a mother in the street.
The unnamed officer had reportedly demanded Weerasinghe Arachchilage Kanthilatha, who worked as a prostitute, to perform a sex act on him, which she had refused.
Humiliated, the officer threatened to ‘teach her a lesson’ and thrashed her repeatedly with an iron cane in the street.
Kanthilatha says she was forced into the sex trade through desperate poverty and was introduced to clients through a bad boyfriend a few years ago.
“We stayed in a small hotel for about two weeks. One day he went away leaving me there, and never came back. The hotel owner told me there was a big unpaid bill, and to recover the money, I would have to sell myself,” she told the Sri Lankan Sunday Times.
The video went viral in Sri Lanka and Kanthilatha is demanding five million rupees (£23,130) compensation.
She filed a Fundamental Rights petition in the country’s Supreme Court last October, complaining that she was assaulted with a thick cane and kicked by a policeman.
The claim calls the Court to order the Inspector General of Police to sack all involved parties for torture, cruelty, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Kanthilatha’s case emerges as a new Human Rights Watch investigation reveals Sri Lankan police routinely use torture as a short-cut to extracting confessions.
Detainees, many of whom have been picked up for minor offences, report being severely beaten with iron bars on the soles of their feet, hung by their wrists and in one case had chilli paste smeared on their penis.
Presley Fernando was detained by the police on May 10, 2014 on suspicion of being involved in a robbery.
‘One of the policemen ordered me to remove my trousers and underwear,’ he said.
‘I didn’t want to but was so scared by this time that I would have done anything.
‘They then tied my hands behind my back, and then using a rope they raised me up from the ground so my tied hands were stretched up above my back towards the ceiling.
‘I could feel my hands getting fractured, could feel my arms getting disjointed…I was raised about two-and-half feet off the floor. The beatings had hurt but this was an unbearable pain.’
‘In addition to the hanging, the police were beating me on the soles of my feet with a bundle of twigs from the Girisiriya tree.’
After Presley was hanged by his hands a third time, he said a senior police officer ordered chilli paste be applied to Fernando’s penis and face.
Unable to bear the burning from the chilli paste, Presley screamed he would confess and the police officers finally left and he was lowered to the ground.
Brutality has been endemic in the Sri Lankan Police Force for decades, as the government fought a counter-insurgency against the Tamil Tigers (LTTE). Experts agree that the torturing detainees became entrenched as a means to counter the separatist movement and had now become routine – instead of just a few rogue officers.
The cases examined by the HRW investigation focused on the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), who use the confessions as a quick way to down a case – despite their unreliability.
‘The Sri Lankan police treat the use of torture as an ordinary way of obtaining confessions,’ said HRW Asia director Brad Adams.
‘The police regularly get away with using torture to falsely ‘resolve’ cases that really aren’t being resolved.’
In one toe-curling account of mistaken identity, Akila, a man from the Matara district in the country’s southern province was publicly beaten by police after they couldn’t find his brother, Ajith, who had vandalised a shop window.
Once the police found the guilty brother, they broke his hand.
‘The assistant superintendent of police pushed my face into the broken glass in the kiosk, and rubbed my face along the broken glass,’ Ajith said.
‘I was bleeding profusely from my mouth.’
But unlike Kanthilatha, whose ordeal was captured on video, the vast majority of police brutality vicitims face waiting years for justice – if it ever comes at all.
On May 9, 2014, Gamini Priyantha was called by government official who said his 16-year-old-son PH Sandun Malinga, had died in police custody. His son was arrested two days before for trespassing – a charge eventually dropped.
‘I remember my younger son could hardly walk; he was on the floor, clutching his chest, in great pain,’ Priyantha said, as he recalled visiting his son in the police station.
‘I remember seeing that the skin on his back had split, you could see the raw flesh underneath.’
Malinga’s condition worsened until he died in his brother’s arms.
‘My older son cradled Malinga in his arms to comfort him, but suddenly he said Malinga’s eyes just rolled up into his head, he sputtered saliva and died.’
Priyantha has filed a petition before the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) but is still waiting for a resolution. (Courtesy: Daily Mail UK)