The Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) yesterday leveled charges of police brutality in the arrest of 17 student activists after a protest in Colombo on Friday (May 16).
According to the IUSF, the students were ‘abducted’ on false charges by police, including officers in civvies. Thirteen of these students were viciously assaulted with batons and poles after being taken to the Slave Island police station, it further alleged. Four of the arrested students were yesterday admitted to the Colombo National Hospital for injuries sustained as a result of the attack, the IUSF claimed.
Speaking to The Nation, IUSF President Najith Indika further said that two student activists who sustained the most serious injuries in the assault were still being kept in remand custody at the Magazine Prison. This was in direct contravention to orders issued by the Colombo Fort Magistrate that all students who were injured be immediately admitted to hospital for treatment.
“The magistrate ordered police to take steps to immediately admit the injured student activists to hospital for treatment. He even named those who needed to be admitted. But police have disregarded his instructions as allegations of assault would be confirmed by doctors if the most severely injured students were admitted,” he said.
Indika stressed that police were now left with nowhere to hide after the IUSF publicized photographs of the students who bore visible injuries sustained as a result of being assaulted by officers.
Speaking further, he claimed police did not produce a valid warrant to arrest any of the students.
When contacted, Police Spokesman SSP Ajith Rohana claimed officers had only used ‘necessary force’ to subdue the students after they obstructed police and resisted arrest. “We completely deny allegations of police brutality,” he emphasized.
The 17 students were arrested by the Cinnamon Gardens and Slave Island police. According to the police spokesman, the three of the students had warrants out for their arrest. Two others were arrested for violating a court order issued on them against participating in protest marches, while 12 others were taken into custody for obstructing police from carrying out their duties, he said.
The students were remanded till May 19 after being produced before the Colombo Fort Magistrate.
Those detained are AHS student activists from the universities of Ruhuna and Peradeniya, the IUSF said. President of the Peradeniya University’s Students’ Council, Dimuthu Gunasekere, is among those being detained.
The students were part of a protest conducted opposite the University Grants Commission (UGC) on Friday (May 16) by the IUSF demanding that authorities provide solutions to the issues faced by students of the Allied Health Sciences (AHS) degree program. Students have been demanding that authorities take steps to reinstate the four year degree program for the AHS course, after it was earlier reduced to three years.