Thursday, December 24, 2020

Some of the murdered COVID-19 positive prisoners were ones released by court

Prisoners of Mahara protesting

A woman lamented before Wattala Magistrate Court of Sri Lanka yesterday saying the prison authorities of Mahara prison had killed her husband who had been bailed out by the court. She told that she had deposited the bail for the man to get him released by the time he was shot dead. 

The postmortem reports of this particular man and three others were submitted to Wattala magistrate court yesterday. Ther four of them were COVID-19 positive persons. Prison authorities shot them dead in an incident they claim a prison riot. The prisoners staged a protest before that demanding PCR tests conducted and patients separated from others. 

Eleven prisoners were killed in the incident and Minister of Prisons Lohan Ratwatta earlier told that the cause of the deaths was not shooting. However, the postmortem revealed that the prisoners had died due to gunshot injuries. 

Eight of the killed prisoners are COVID-19 positive. Their postmortems have now been conducted and the postmortems of the three other prisoners are to be conducted. 

Dead bodies of four of the COVID-19 positive prisoners were previously cremated. The Attorney General's Department wanted the bodies of the other four prisoners also cremated with immediate effect but the Committee to Protect the Rights of the Prisoners protested destroying the evidence of a crime. 

The decision regarding the dead bodies was postponed until December 30. 

The slain prisoners are not convicted and they are only suspects. The authorities and the media loyal to them claim that they are drug offenders. Although the authorities try to justify the killing of prisoners, section 13 (4) of the constitution of Sri Lanka highlights “No person shall be punished with death or imprisonment except by order of a competent court, made in accordance with the procedure established by law.”

Amnesty International said issuing a statement on killing of prisoners in Sri Lanka that prison authorities should ensure an end to the use of unlawful and excessive force against prisoners agitating against their detention conditions during the outbreak of COVID-19 within prisons. "Ensure that force is only ever used against prisoners where it is strictly necessary and proportionate to a legitimate objective," the statement said. 

"The incident at Mahara Prison Complex is the third time this year that lethal force has been used against prison inmates in Sri Lanka since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country. In March, two prisoners were killed and several others injured in Anuradhapura prison in North Central Province, following a protest related to COVID-19. On 18 November, a prisoner was shot dead while trying to escape from Bogambara Prison in Central Province, where more than 100 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19," the statement further said.

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