Sri Lanka charges prison officer, commando over massacre of 27 prisoners in 2012

Colombo, Sri Lanka | AFP | Friday – Sri Lanka’s chief prosecutor on Friday announced charges against a top prison officer and an elite commando for the killing of 27 inmates in a notorious rights case.

Attorney General Dappula de Livera said he wanted a special fast track trial for Prisons Commissioner Emil Lamahewage and police commando Moses Rangajeewa over the execution-style killings in November 2012.

A third suspect who was a member of a prison intelligence unit was on the run, de Livera said.

Commandos were used to put down a riot at the Welika jail in Colombo and disarm inmates who had taken weapons from the armoury.

According to de Livera’s account, eight prisoners were called out by name and killed execution-style.

Weapons were later introduced to make it look like the victims had tried to fire at jail guards, according to court documents made available to AFP.

The documents did not mention any command responsibility for the deaths.

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Media reports have said the killings were ordered by the then defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, a younger brother of former President Mahinda Rajapakse who was defeated at January 2015 elections.

Rajapakse has denied involvement in the killings. However, a court hearing was told Friday that no investigation was carried out when Rajapakse was in power.

The killings escalated international condemnation of Rajapakse, whose government faced sanctions for rights abuses in the final years of Sri Lanka’s 37-year-long Tamil war that ended in 2009.

Some of the inmates killed were being held over robberies at Sri Lanka’s national museum and a temple, crimes allegedly linked to senior members of Rajapakse’s administration.

The 2012 massacre was the worst prison violence since 50 inmates were hacked to death in a July 1983 riot.

Rajapakse lost a 2015 election to Maithripala Sirisena who promised to ensure accountability for past abuses.