Top level Sri Lanka hospital unable to handle autopsies of virus victims

A leading hospital in Sri Lanka, where the bodies of the latest prison massacre victims were taken, does not have the facilities to conduct autopsies on bodies of people who were infected with the virus, according to the national rights watchdog.

This shocking revelation was made by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) in a letter to the head of the Colombo north teaching hospital urging him not to destroy bodies of those who died in the Mahara prison riot a week ago.

'Preserve the bodies'

The letter was written by the Commission at a time relatives and prison rights activists were casting doubts about claims by authorities that 9 out of 11 killed were identified as Covid 19 Victims.

“While we are aware of the regulations in relation to disposal of bodies of those infected by the virus, we write to remind you that these bodies form part of an investigation that has already commenced,” wrote Ramani Muttettuwegama, Commissioner in charge of Investigations and Inquiries.

“Therefore, they should be preserved in a manner compatible with health requirements but not be cremated or destroyed in any other way until the autopsy proceedings in relation to their death is concluded. Further, where possible, external examination of the bodies such as photographs etc can be commenced and access should be provided to the forensic team for this purpose.”

She had further instructed the Hospital Director Dr. W. A. M. Shelton Perera to seek court approval to carry on the necessary investigations.

“Our inquiries reveal that although your hospital lacks the facilities for performing autopsies on bodies of people who were infected with the virus, the mortuary at the Infectious Diseases Hospital at Kotikawatte does have the required facilities and permission should be sought from the Magistrate for seeking their expertise if required.”

'They were shot' - CPRP

Earlier, HRCSL had recommended to commence forensic examination of the prison premises and hold post-mortem inquiries to understand cause of death of those who died and nature of injuries.

So far, six of the dead detainees have been identified. However, the cause of death has not been established.

They were shot to death, relatives and the Committee for the Protection of Prisoners Rights (CPPR) are convinced.