The Sunday Leader

To be An Officer And A Gentleman

  • New code of ethics for Police a long-felt need

by Hafsa Sabry

Police Officers

A newly established code of ethics for the Sri Lanka Police will be launched in all police stations in the near future to ensure that all police officers uphold the interests of the government when dealing with the public and the media.

The recent incident of a STF commander using offensive language at a media conference highlighted the necessity for police officers to be regulated under a code of ethics which had, to date, not been properly implemented by the National Police Commission of Sri Lanka.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Secretary to the National Police Commission of Sri Lanka, Ariyadasa Coorey said although there was a code of conduct to regulate behaviour and activity of a police officer, there was no code of ethics in place.

“Even though a code of ethics for the police was a necessity for a long time, it had not been established. Recent incidents however have augmented the need for a code of ethics and therefore the ethics were updated and will be launched very soon,” Coorey added.

Coorey claimed that the updated code of ethics is expected to be launched in a one day session islandwide.  All police stations will be informed about the code of ethics which includes eight main areas of how a police officer should conduct him/herself in public. These have been explained in a simple manner and even a constable could understand it as a whole.

How a police officer should deal with the public in a polite manner and be aware that he is only a public servant and not a superior officer are clearly mentioned in the newly updated code of ethics. It also mentions that the police officer should bear in mind that he is paid by the government treasury and that he works for society in a manner that will harm no one. The manner in which a police officer should maintain relationships with officers of all ranks is also included in the document.

Nevertheless, there will not be any direct action against a police officer if the provisions of the code of ethics is violated but if the ethic violation leads to violation of certain rules of the Police Commission,s/he may be punished for violating the code of conduct and not the code of ethics.

Police officers are bound to follow the code of conduct while arresting a suspect or a criminal ensuring that the basic human rights of the individual are protected even if he or she is found to be guilty and this will also be included in the updated code of ethics.

“For example we have directed that when police officers make an arrest of a suspect or a criminal, they should not violate their human rights. If their human rights are violated, the victim is allowed to make a complaint against the police officer and the Police Commission will take action against the police officers if it is proven to be a violation,” Coorey further stated.

He also said that a police officer or a commander cannot use offensive language while attending a public forum as any public servant is bound to protect the interests of the government. A commander cannot be punished by the Police Commission as the case has to go through the courts and magisterial judgments. Hence, the National Police Commission of Sri Lanka has requested a report on the incident that took place at the media briefing and the IGP has submitted it. The report will be discussed at the next meeting of the Commission, Coorey said.   In the meantime, President Maithripala Sirisena has highlighted a set of directives for the police to be regulated as allegations levelled against the police and the armed forces for violating the code of conduct and the misuse of power under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) are on the rise. The move on Friday came in the wake of the ongoing United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in Geneva. An oral brief on Sri Lanka is to be given by Human Rights Commissioner Zaid Ra’ad Al Hussein on June 29.

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has also issued directives to be followed by designated officials when arresting persons under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).The directives are being issued to ensure the fundamental rights of persons arrested or detained are respected and protected, and such persons are treated humanely.

However, the PTA allows arrest for unlawful activities without warrant and permits detention for up to 18 months without producing the suspect before a court. Suspects detained under the PTA have been held in prison without charge for years. Although the government has been more transparent about the recent PTA arrests, the tremendous powers given to the security forces under the PTA facilitate abuses. The President had also directed the Secretary to the Ministry of Law and Order in the case of the Police and the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence in the case of the armed forces that they should formulate a ‘uniform document’ which will contain the name and rank of the officer making the arrest and under what circumstances the arrest has been made.

The President has stated that details of the arrest should be recorded in the Information Book (IB) if a uniform document cannot be issued and those in the armed forces will be required to report to the Officer-in-Charge of a police station to record a statement in the IB to make sure that the details are officially recorded.

Also under the directive, no person can be arrested or detained under the PTA 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 an arrest or order such detention.

The person making the arrest should identify himself/herself by name and rank and show identification to the person being arrested or a relative or friend of such person; every person arrested shall be informed of the reason for the arrest and the person making the arrest or detention should issue to the spouse, parents, or relations, an arrest receipt acknowledging the fact of arrest.

The name and rank of the arresting officer, the time and date of arrest, and the place at which the person will be detained should also be specified. The receipt should be attested by the person to whom the receipt is issued, and be counter-signed by the arrestee, whose name, address, identity card No. and reason for arrest should also be stated in the receipt.

The receipt should be issued in the language that the arrested person ordinarily uses. The arrested or detained person should also be allowed to communicate with a family member, relative or friend to inform of his whereabouts, if the person is arrested when not in presence of family or relatives.

The President also directs that prompt action should be taken when an arrested person is seeking medical help. Attorneys-at-Law representing those arrested under the PTA should be permitted to meet them.

Detention should be in keeping with the established fundamental rights protected in Article 13 (5) of the Constitution that an accused is assumed innocent until he or she is proven guilty while, adequate basic amenities should be provided in all places of detention to prevent the detention being a torture.


1 Comment for “To be An Officer And A Gentleman”

  1. gamarala

    In no other country, can a citizen be arrested and imprisoned for 18 months without trial. There are hundreds being held for many years.
    And, we are talking about Human Rights, and about abolition of the Death Penalty.

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