Activists call for “impartial” probe into Mahara Prison deaths
ECONOMYNEXT – Human Rights activists are demanding a full and impartial investigation into the death of eleven prisoners at the Mahara jail where the inmates were killed allegedly by jail guards firing at them as they reportedly fought each other.
Attorney Senaka Perera, Chairman of the Committee to Protect the Rights of Prisoners told EconomyNext that “justice has to be done whether these people are offenders or not.”
All the dead are described as Remandees and are alleged drug offenders. Photographs of the dead, made available to EconomyNext, show them to be young men.
Nine of the eleven are said to be Covid 19 positive and their remains were to be cremated today, but Perera’s organisation filed a motion before the Welisara Magistrate staying the cremations to investigate the cause of death of these prisoners.
“It is important that the actual cause of death be recorded. By saying they are Covid positive and therefore cremating the remains will erase valuable forensic evidence that is needed to determine the actual cause of death,” Perera said.
He disputed the videos that have been circulated on social media which appear to show a gang fight between two groups of prisoners as a cause of the casualties.
“These are not official CCTV records and we do not know who recorded these videos and when,” Perera said.
The riot that took place on Sunday (Nov 29) have injured 117 injured with 38 of them have been tested positive for COVID-19.
Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that the Prison Department will take legal action against 25 identified prison inmates involved in the Mahara prison riots, while the authorities are identifying other inmates responsible.
He said that the security at the prison complex was ensured by yesterday and 2500 inmates are currently detained at the Mahara Prison.
Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said that the government takes full responsibility for the violence that erupted at the Mahara prison on Sunday (Nov 29).
The minister told reporters at the weekly cabinet press briefing that the inmates could’ve been under the influence of some unnamed psychotropic pills. Various measures taken by intelligence operatives and prison officials to prevent drugs from getting inside the prison appear to have been circumvented, he said.
Today December 3, responding to media reports of 21,000 psychotropic pills being missing from the pharmacy of the jail the Sri Lanka College of Psychiatrists issued a statement saying that the medicines issued in this case were to help the inmates.
The statement said that the pills were meant to wean addicts from drugs such as heroin and were soporific. (Colombo, December 3, 2020)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana