Sri Lanka: Young man whisked away in white van and killed in custody

Police in Sri Lanka have shot dead a twenty-five-year-old man while in custody, condemned by the country’s prisoner rights activists as an extra-judicial killing.

Mabulage Dinith Melon Mabula who was in detention for eight years had been killed in a Colombo suburb, a day after he was allegedly driven away in a white van from the southern province.

The day before his killing his parents have lodged a complaint with the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission (HRCSL) that their young son had disappeared while in detention.

“Melon Mabula alias Ooru Juwa wanted over several cases of extortion and crimes, was shot dead by police during an incident at Nawagamuwa,” Police Spokesman Ajith Rohana told journalists in the capital.

"His lawyer had been told by the police that they need to find a hidden cache of weapons" Senaka Perera, a human rights lawyer and the president of the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners revealed in a Facebook post, Tuesday (11) night. 

"We have not forgotten the way many suspects who were taken away to show hidden weapons ended up in the past", he added.

Two hours later, he was reportedly shot dead.

This is the ninth recorded police killing in custody in less than a year, and the second in Nawagamuwa. Many have been described by the police as “killed in crossfire when the prisoner was taken to show firearms or drugs”.

White vanned

JDS has reliable information to reveal that Melon Mabula was in the custody of Dinesh Aththaragama, the Officer In Charge (OIC) of the Nawagamuwa police station.

“The officer in charge of the Nawagamuwa police station should be held responsible for this murder,” said Sudesh Nandimal, the convener of the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners in a video message posted on social media.

On 10 May, police have informed the parents of Melon Mabula that he will be released on bail from the Boossa detention center in southern district of Galle. When the Mabula family went there around midday, they have been told that their son had been taken away in a white van. They have immediately lodged a complaint with the HRCSL of the young man’s abduction and disappearance.

The next day, police have asked the parents to visit the Nawagamuwa police station to receive their son who will be released on bail. Once the parents have gone to the police station around 9pm with attorney at law Harishka Samaranayake, they have not been allowed in. A Sub Inspector has informed them that Melon Mabula had been taken out by the OIC for what he called an investigation.

Terrified of what might happen to their son in the dead of the night the family had apparently called emergency hotlines and HRCSL.

Before getting any assistance, the family had heard over the radio that their son had been killed.

The Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners has announced that it will take legal action.



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.