The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) yesterday issued a set of guidelines for the police to follow during the upcoming provincial council elections.
The HRCSL said it has issued the guidelines recognizing the right of every citizen to vote, to freely engage in political activities and the right to free and fair elections under the Constitution and international human rights norms.
All the police officers are to observe the adopted guidelines during the run-up to the election, on the day of the election and the period immediately after the election.
The Commission has instructed the Police to accept and investigate all the complaints regarding pre-election, Election Day and post-election violence regardless of the status of violators.
"The police will be held liable for violation of fundamental rights for any inaction or omission with regard to entertaining such complaints," the HRCSL decreed.
Investigation regarding complaints shall be conducted in a strictly impartial manner. Inaction due to political influences or any other unacceptable reason will amount to a breach of the Constitution, the Commission said.
The Commission instructed the Police to apply the law which relates to election propaganda equally without discrimination against any citizen on the grounds of race, religion, language, cast sex, political opinion, and place of birth or any one of such ground.
"Any unequal treatment or discrimination, especially on political opinion, will be an express violation of Article 12 of the Constitution," the guidelines say.
The Police are instructed to strictly enforce the law with regard to persons who violate the right of others to vote and Police officers are required to provide adequate security to polling centres and other related places and make every effort to facilitate the conduct of a free and fair election in accordance with the law of the land.
The Commission says the duty of the police officers is to enforce the law strictly against all persons who misuse or cause damage to public property, e.g., government vehicles, buildings and premises and the law shall be equally enforced against political parties or persons irrespective of their status or powers when they breach election laws.
The Police shall take all responsible steps according to procedures established by the law to prevent violation of fundamental rights and they have a responsibility to prevent election related violence including post-election violence.
The police are instructed not to participate any type of violence against persons or property, including subjecting persons to torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, on their own initiative or at the behest of any other party.
Other recommendations include guaranteeing freedom of speech, assembly, association, occupation and of movement, equal privileges to display election propaganda materials such as leaflets, posters, and photographs of the candidates, symbols, flags and banners.
The Human Rights Commission will hold a meeting with relevant authorities on 11th September to discuss the importance of the rights to engage in political activities and the right to free and fair elections under the Constitution and the role of state responsibility,
Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Law and Order, Ministry of Public Administration and Home Affairs, District Secretaries, District Assistant Commissioners of Elections, Senior Deputy Inspector Generals of Police of Central, Northern and North Western Provinces are expected to participate in the meeting.
Elections for the Northern, North Western and Central Provincial Councils will be held on 21 September.