Rights Task Force (HRTF) was originally established in August 1991 by a
regulation gazetted under section 19 of the Sri Lanka Foundation Law No: 31 of
With the change of the government in 1994, the performance of this body was
reviewed and it was reconstituted with greater authority by regulations made by
the President under section 5 of the Public Security Ordinance (PSO).
The objectives of the reconstitued HRTF were to
monitor observance of fundamental rights of persons detained
in custody, otherwise than by a judicial order,
and to ensure that human treatment is accorded to them, and which body shall for
this purpose have the following powers and duties –
to maintain a comprehensive and accurate register of such person with
full details of their detention and to ensure observance of, and respect for
their fundamental rights, and to ensure human treatment for them;
to investigate and establish the identity of each such person by a proper
to monitor the welfare of such persons;
to carry out regular inspections of places of detention, make roll calls
and other necessary spot checks and to take immediate steps to remedy any
to record any complaints, representations or grievances that may be made
to it and to take immediate remedial action.
exercise of these functions, the HRTF was particularly concerned to ensure that
the fundamental rights of persons in custody were not violated. Its officials
made unannounced visits to detention centres and interviewed detainees
confidentially, providing detainees with an opportunity to air any grievances
and requiring the persons responsible for the detention to ensure that at least
the basic facilities were provided. The HRTF also helped to locate many persons
taken into custody, if they were in unacknowledged detention. The HRTF was
primarily concerned with locating such missing detainees; it did not generally
investigate who was responsible for such events.
established regional offices in almost every province, making itself easily
accessible to complainants and enabling its officers to visit detention centres
more frequently. However, despite its efforts, disappearances of persons taken
into custody continued.
the President issued a directive dated 18th July 1995 to the armed
forces and the police force under Regulation 8 of the said regulations
wherein special provisions were included to make the police and the security
forces accountable for every person taken into custody. Paragraph 3 of this
directive reads as follows:
person making the arrest shall identify himself to the person arrested or any
relative or friend of such person, by name and rank;
person arrested or detained shall be informed of the reason for the arrest;
person making the arrest or detention shall issue to the spouse , parents or
any other close relative a document acknowledging the fact of arrest.
person arrested shall be afforded reasonable means of communicating with a
relative or friend to enable his whereabouts being known to his family.
these specific directives, illegal arrests and detentions continue because there
are no penal provisions to deal with those who do not comply with the
Posted on 2003-06-15