Police brutality sometimes euphemistically referred to as ‘excesses’ committed by individual or rogue bands of law enforcement officials, is the excessive and unwarranted use of force by the guardians of law and order.
The term is used to describe various human rights violations by police. They include beatings, racial abuse, unlawful killings, torture, or indiscriminate use of riot-control agents at protests. From the backstreets of the US, to the shacks or beachside shanties in Sri Lanka’s capital, unlawful use of force by police can end in death, injury and devastation.
The term also refers to situations where officers exercise undue or excessive force against a person. Police violence includes but is not limited to physical or verbal harassment. It includes physical and/or mental injury, property damage, inaction of police officers, and in some cases, death of suspects in custody.
As we’ve seen too many times, whether it be country’s claiming leadership in defending human of human rights the world over, or in countries ruled by strongmen (elected or otherwise), on many occasions police kill or seriously injure people during arrests fuelled by ethnic animosity or for simple causes as criticizing governments in power.
The recent the cold-blooded killing of a black man – George Floyd by white American police in the US and the recent arrest and illegal detention of trade unionists in quarantine centres in Sri Lanka are, but, two examples of a more widespread disease.
One of the worst case scenarios of police brutality are the continuing police attacks of the unfortunate Palestinian people who continue to live under Israeli occupation.
According to Amnesty International in countless cases, police are quick to use force in response to protests or demonstrations. All too often, officers who kill or injure people after using unlawful force are not brought to justice.
In our own country during the near three-decade long ethnic conflict which began in July 1983, hundreds, if not thousands of civilian Tamils were arrested sans charges. Recently the present Minister of Sports drew the attention of parliament to the fate of these prisoners, some of whom the minister said has been languishing in prison for years. Even prior to his (the minister’s) birth. Worse, some of these unfortunates have as yet had no charges framed against them.
Some of the more heinous atrocities committed during this period was when the forces of law and order turned a blind eye to crimes which were being committed literally under their noses during the 1983 July riots and the Welikada prison massacre of the same month.
Fifty-three Tamil prisoners were killed in the high security prison of Welikada in Colombo and hundreds of civilians were killed on the streets of the country while police idly stood by. No one has been convicted for the crimes. The government of the day absolved police crimes and an era of police impunity had dawned.
In a near repetition of the 1983 Welikada prison massacre, in 2012 police commandos entered the same prison compound and cold-bloodedly killed prisoners in their cells. To date it has not been traced as to who gave the order for the raid.
More recently, using the Covid-19 regulations as cover, police took into custody the peacefully protesting trade unionists and detained them in quarantine centres. Media institutions exposed pictures of a photojournalist being frog-marched by a suspect policeman implicated in Sri Lanka’s 2012 Welikada prison massacre in the very premises of the High Court.
Just a day or two ago, police in civvies entered residences in the suburbs of Colombo sans identification demanding to know who lived within the premises and threatening residents who demanded identification.
This is why it’s so important to know what our rights are, and to know what police are, and aren’t, allowed to do.
In these times where police excesses are growing in our own country, we need to remember the ultimate truism attributed to Edmund Burke…“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing…”
We need to make sure that police stop using force against the law, and that those who kill unlawfully are brought to account – no more excuses.
Disclaimer: Police ‘excesses’ - dailymirror EDITORIAL - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view