Judge orders police to speed up orphanage abuse case | Daily News

Judge orders police to speed up orphanage abuse case

The Gangodawila Magistrate ordered the Boralesgamuwa Police to expedite the investigation into the alleged sexual harassment and abuse of 18 young women at an orphanage in Dehiwala.

The order comes as lawyers representing the women and victims’ advocates accuse the police of dragging their feet on the case.

Officers initially arrested Mohamed Sarippuge Mohar, 62, who they say was a driver for the orphanage, on charges of sexual harassment in July. According to the victims’ statements, he touched them inappropriately in the vehicle he drove them in, as well as in the orphanage, where he also lived.

Police filed separate charges after one of the girls’ testimony revealed that she potentially suffered grave sexual abuse from Mohar.

National Child Protection Authority Chairperson Marini de Livera said that her officers, as well as local police, have met resistance from the organisation in their investigation.

Activists gathered outside the Gangodawila Magistrate’s Court yesterday, holding signs in Sinhala, English, and Tamil urging authorities to increase their oversight of the case.

“It’s been a long time this case has been going on, but still, the affected victims haven’t received any justice,” said Maureen Ernest, an anti-domestic abuse activist. “So the court should be able to proceed the case more quickly than they have.”

The activists presented a written statement signed by over 40 civil society organizations, which said they were concerned that “despite the occurrence of the alleged incident, the children have been returned to the orphanage which is still under the old management.”

“We request the National Child Protection Authority to take official control of the management of the Darun Nusra Orphanage until suitable alternative arrangements can be made in terms of appointing a new management,” they wrote.

Dr. Mareena Reffai, the founder of the Almuslimaath foundation which runs the orphanage, denied that any harassment occurred, saying there’s “no medical evidence” of sexual abuse.

Former Almuslimaath President Shana Mohinudeen, however, accused Reffai in a July letter of knowing about the abuse and doing nothing about it. She quit her post in protest the same day.

Counsel for the young women on Thursday also produced documents in court alleging that the girls had reported the abuse both to the man’s wife and Dr. Reffai, and that they did not take action.

Responding to the allegations in a recent written statement, Dr. Reffai said “none of the children were raped.” But she also distanced herself from Mohar, saying “I never helped (him) in any way whatsoever after he was arrested.”

Speaking after Mohar’s criminal hearing Thursday, lawyers for the young women said they were happy with the Magistrate’s order to fast-track the investigation. “Justice delayed is justice denied,” said Shiraz Noordeen, the lawyer who is representing the victims.

NCPA Chairperson de Livera said she had sent a team of investigators to the orphanage after the court hearing to further interview the victims.

The Magistrate said that the earliest the case could be called again is January 25. 


 

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