ECONOMYNEXT – The killing of two alleged underworld figures in police custody this week have the hallmarks of extra-judicial killings, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) said, calling the deaths an affront to the rule of law.
Apprehensions about the fate that awaited the two suspects had been communicated to authorities while they were still in custody, the BASL also claimed.
In a statement released today (13), the BASL condemned the killing of alleged gang leader Dharmakeerthi Tharaka Perera Wijesekara alias Kosgoda Tharaka, who police claimed had died following a shootout this morning, and that of Mabulage Dineth Melan Mabula alias Uru Juwa who died under similar circumstances.
Such deaths will tarnish Sri Lanka’s image, the BASL said.
The BASL claimed that yesterday (12), the attorney-at-law representing Wijsekara had informed the association that his client had been suddenly transferred from the custody of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to a special police unit at Peliyagod and that he feared his client would be killed in custody.
Despite the BASL informing police chief Chandana Wikcremeratne via email and WhatsApp between 8 and 9pm yesterday of the lawyer’s apprehensions, the bar said, Wijesekara was reported by the media to have been killed while in custody when he had allegedly tried to attack the police while recovering some weapons.
Representations had also been made with regard to the safety of Mabula a.k.a. Uru Juwa too, prior to his death, the BASL said.
“The state and the police have a duty to ensure the safety and security of persons in their custody, irrespective of the character of such persons and the seriousness of the nature of the allegations against such persons,” the statement signed by BASL President Saliya Pieris and Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya said.
Malabu and Wijeskara had been taken into custody for murder, robbery, extortion and organised crime, according to the police.
The BASL said it is an imperative requirement of criminal justice that persons accused of serious crimes including murder are tried by a court of law and punished for their crimes and that the networks that aided and abetted such activities are prosecuted and dismantled.
“This requirement is defeated by the failure of police officers to control the unarmed suspect purportedly accompanied by them without the use of lethal force. It is incomprehensible how on several occasions the police have been unable to protect unarmed suspects in their custody,” it said.
The association requested President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the government to take serious note of these incidents and to take action to prevent repeats. It also called for an independent and impartial investigation into the events. (Colombo/May13/2021)