Showing posts with label killing of prisoners in Sri Lanka. Show all posts
Showing posts with label killing of prisoners in Sri Lanka. Show all posts

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.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Postmortems of nine COVID-19 infected prisoners and two others killed in Sri Lanka being conducted

Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Sri Lanka reported to Wattala Magistrate Court on December 18, 2020, that the postmortem reports of seven remand prisoners killed in Mahara prison would be submitted to the court on December 23. Five of these killed seven prisoners are COVID-19 patients. 

CID cited that the postmortem had been delayed because of the cremation of four other prisoners was delayed. The postmortem of these four remand prisoners was conducted earlier and the cause of death was cited as gunshot injuries. 

The prison officials shot at the prisoners but the Prisons Minister Lohan Ratwatta lied to media that no prisoner had died due to gunfire. 

The lawyers appearing for the rights of the prisoners appealed to the court that the dead bodies of the slain prisoners buried but the CID objected it. The dead bodies were cremated later.

Chaos occurred in the congested Mahara prison in Gampaha district due to the fear of COVID-19. The prisoners demanded PCR conducted among them and the infected persons separated. Eleven prisoners were killed and over 100 were injured as a result of firing by the prison officers. PCR conducted later proved that nine of the 11 killed prisoners had been contracted COVID-19. 

(Photo: A man suspected to be another prisoner deployed without personal protective equipment to attend to the dead bodies while the officials keep a safe distance)    

Friday, December 11, 2020

Conduct postmortem and reveal the causes of deaths of detainees in Mahara prison

Mahara prison riots

By Anthony Vinoth, Coordinator - Sri Lankan Collective Against Torture 

Sri Lankan Collective Against Torture is highly concerned about the killing of 11 detainees of Mahara prison and injuring 107 detainees, in an incident claimed to be taken place amidst steps to control the chaos in prison on November 29. We express our deepest condolences to the families of the deceased and wish speedy recovery of all the injured detainees and the two prison officials.

We highlight that the security of the prisoners in state custody lie on the government and expect the authorities will provide a credible explanation to the society about the incident.

We want to remind that local and international civil organizations have focused the attention of the government many times to the elongated issue of congestion in prisons of Sri Lanka. We believe that COVID-19 would not make the prisons so vulnerable if the government had taken steps to provide sustainable solutions to minimize prison congestion. Several civil organizations, including the Committee to Protect the Rights of the Prisoners informed the authorities several times that spread of the epidemic in the prisons might cause panic among detainees. We stress that the cause for the unfortunate situation in prison is the failure of the authorities to take timely action. As a result, chaos has been reported from several prisoners by now.  

Two detainees lost lives in Anuradhapura prison amidst the first corona wave as a result of using live rounds to control the chaos. On November 18, one detainee of Bogambara prison died due to gunshot injuries. We focus the attention to the section 13 (4) of the constitution of Sri Lanka which 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.”

The killings that took place in prisons within a brief period degrade  Sri Lanka in the human rights indices while affecting the dignity of the state internationally.

Even before the postmortem, the new Minister of Prison Management Hon. Lohan Ratwatta said in the parliament that no prisoner had died of gunshot injuries in the Mahara incident. This statement by the Hon. Minister was contradicted when the state counsel representing the Attorney General reported to the Magistrate of Welisara on December 8 that Criminal Investigation Department probes had revealed the use of firearms. The Sri Lankan Collective Against Torture protests the Minister’s statement in this context. We further demand the Department of Prisons to immediately hand over the unedited copies of the videos shown on media together with the equipment used to record them to the Magistrate Court of Welisara for further investigations. 

Also, we demand the government not to cremate the dead bodies of these detainees as per the quarantine regulations. We respect the interim order issued by Hon. Magistrate of Wattala on December 4 preventing the cremations. 

Hon. Magistrate of Welisara has directed the government to provide expert opinion regarding the postmortems, and we urge the authorities to take immediate actions in terms of this direction. In the context of the investigations after the exhumation of the bodies of the murdered persons had changed the initial postmortem reports, we emphasize that the government should conduct fair and independent inquests in terms of these nine killings. The cremation of the dead bodies considering the victims of killings as COVID-19 patients may hide evidence of murder, we stress. Therefore, we urge the government to use suitable techniques such as X-ray and conduct investigations without causing injustice to the victims of a crime and the families of the victims. The responsibility of a democratic government is to conduct murder investigations transparently and independently.

Sri Lanka is lagging regarding delivering justice to the victims of similar crimes that occur in the prisons quite often. The case regarding the killing of 27 prisoners in Welikada prison on November 9, 2012, is yet to be examined. However, accelerating the process of justice concerning exceptional circumstances is unalienable responsibility of the government.

Sri Lankan Collective Against Torture extends its fullest corporation unconditionally to its member organization, Committee to Protect the Prisoners’ Rights, in their struggle to seek justice for the victims of this incident and also to increase the security and facilities in the prisons.

(Translated by Creative Content Consultants)

Sunday, November 29, 2020

At least one prisoner killed in Sri Lanka's Mahara prison

At least one prisoner was shot dead while some others were injured in Mahara prison in Sri Lanka's Gampaha district. The authorities claim the shooting has taken place due to an escape attempt. 

Remand prisoners in congested prisons in Sri Lanka agitate demanding release on bail. The chaos continued in Mahara prison in the evening. Police Special Task Force was deployed for suppression.   

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Prisoner in quarantine dies in escape attempt at Kandy Bogambara prison

One prisoner was killed in Bogambara prison in Kandy last night. Five prisoners tried to escape and another prisoner was injured while one escaped, Prisons Commissioner-General Thushara Upuldeniya said. Prison officers have arrested two escapees, he said.

The deceased is identified as 30-year-old Abdul Raheem of Anuradhapura. He had succumbed to the injuries sustained due to the fall from the top of the prison wall, the Prisons Commissioner-General said. The other prisoner also sustained injuries due to fall, the official said. 

However, our studies on Sri Lanka's prisons indicate the prevalence of torture and brutality especially against the prisoners who attempt to escape. The incidents of prisoner deaths must be fairly investigated.

Update: The escaped prisoner was later arrested

Bogambara prison has been converted to a quarantine centre for the prisoners and over 400 prisoners undergo quarantine there. 

Over 500 prisoners in Sri Lanka are COVID-19 positive now. 

Bogambara prison and the land of five acres belonged to it in the heart of Kandy city was emptied from prisoners and the venue was transformed into a cultural and tourism centre named “Bogambara Cultural Park” by the previous government in 2019. 

According to Attractions in Sri Lanka website, "The Bogambara Prison was the second largest prison in Sri Lanka, the first being the Welikada Prison in Colombo. It was built by the British Ceylon Government in the year 1876. The prison complex has gallows and was one of the two prisons in Sri Lanka where the death penalty was implemented. The prison was closed down in 2014 and the building is open for public viewing as a historic monument. It is one of the oldest existing buildings in Kandy and located in Bogambara."

White handkerchief marks protest against forcible cremation by the government of Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan civil society is silently but strongly marking their protest against the government's inhuman  forcible  cremation of a 20-da...