“My son was beaten to death,” in Sri Lanka’s high-security prison

Sri Lanka’s top human rights watchdog has been urged to probe the death of a young detainee allegedly tortured and killed in a high security prison.

27-year-old Kavinda Isuru Tissera was found dead in the Mahara prison on 3 May with injuries to his body.

In a complaint to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) his parents say that their dead son’s body had clear signs of assault.

“All I have to say is that my son was beaten to death,” the devastated mother R.M Karunawathie told journalists after lodging the complaint.

“When we went to see him in the morning there was a huge bleeding wound at the back of his head. Both legs were broken. His hand had a fracture. The hand was broken.”

Karunawathie and her husband Sumanadasa Thissera met HRCSL officials while the president was directing defence and prisons authorities to tighten security in detention facilities.

“I have stressed need to ensure criminal operations by underworld kingpins and drug mafia from within prisons, is ended forthwith,” announced President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

“Corrupt and inefficient officers who enable such actions will be identified & action taken should appropriately,” he tweeted. However, the president’s office had not made it clear what directions were given to address ongoing torture and death in prisons.

Detainee was starving

On the day of Kavinda Isuru’s death, officials claimed the detainee had fallen off the 20 feet high wall surrounding the prison, in an unsuccessful bid to escape.

The detainee who was kept in isolation within the Mahara prison in Covid 19 quarantine, had not been fed for days, said his mother.

Prisoners’ rights activists who reject that an almost starving detainee could scale prison walls, say that death in custody has become a ‘pattern’.

He recalled that deaths in custody had occurred in Anuradhapura, Kuruwita and Welikada high-security prisons before Mahara, since the new president Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to power six months ago.

“We were told through media that he died while trying to escape,” said Sudesh Nandimal de Silva, Convener of the Committee to Protect Rights of Prisoners.

“According to information we have received, the truth is that the detainee had been beaten up, severely tortured and murdered. This has now become a pattern.”

The activist who himself had survived a prison massacre eight years ago when the present president was the powerful defence secretary, said their organization is ready to provide evidence in court to prove that Kavinda Isuru Tissera was killed in detention.



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.