Forensic experts confirm shooting caused Sri Lanka prison massacre

In a serious setback to the government, forensic experts in Sri Lanka have confirmed that eight out of eleven people who lost their lives in the Mahara prison massacre died of bullet injuries and ordered the bodies to be cremated.

Earlier, JDS investigations revealed that the detainees were shot dead by prison guards.

At least four of the JMO reports, seen by JDS, clearly indicate 'extensive firearm injuries' to lungs, heart or chest as the cause of the death.

While a judicial probe has been initiated families of eyewitness fear for their life and safety. The autopsy reports of the other three victims are expected to the submitted in the court this month.

"NGO agents"

The court also threw out the objections of the Attorney General in curtailing the rights of the lawyers who represented the victims. Wattala Magistrate Buddhika C. Ragala while ruled the power of representation cannot be taken away when “11 persons were killed and more than 100 injured”.

The lawyers who were humiliated by the country’s top lawyer as “NGO agents” have already lodged a complaint.

Human Rights activists and leading attorneys have claimed the court ruling as ‘historic’ which confirms the rights of the lawyers to represent clients and the court cannot intervene n their basic professional freedom.

Seeking justice for those killed inside the prison complex, political parties and lawyers accuse the government of ‘trying to cover up the incident’.

“Prisoners have freedom to be represented and that right is undeniable” Senaka Perera-Senior Attorney and President of the Committee for Protecting the Rights of the Prisoners told the media. The organisation claims ‘the government is deliberately trying to destroy evidence’; which the government denies.

The unrest was the culmination of a series of protests staged by the prisoners demanding an increase in Corona virus testing and new isolation facilities for infected prisoners.

Following the riots, a paramillitary special task force has been deployed in the Mahara prison.

Unsafe conditions

The International Commission of jurists (ICJ) have called upon the Sri Lankan authorities to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into the events involving the use of lethal force by prison guards.

According to ICJ the action by the guards was taken in response to the unrest resulting from protests by inmates over unsafe and overcrowded conditions in prisons in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. The jurists have demanded urgent measure to address the unsafe conditions in Sri Lankan prisons to protect the right to health and life, including where necessary by releasing detainees.

“The tragic events of Mahara Prison are a consequence of the failure of the Sri Lankan authorities to effectively address the situation of prison conditions, which has turned into a full blown human rights and public health crisis in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic” according to Ian Seiderman ICJ Legal and Policy Director.

Apart from criminal convicts, Tamil political prisoners have also been incarcerated without trial for over long periods and protests have erupted across the country seeking their release.