In a letter to Mr. Jayasiri Tennakoon. Commissioner General of Prisons Dr. Deepika Udagama, Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission has recommended releasing selected prisoners in the face of the current health epidemic.
The letter follows:
Mr. Jayasiri Tennakoon,
Commissioner General of Prisons,
Covid-l9 Epidemic – Recommendations of HRCSL Regarding Protection of Prisoners
I write pursuant to the telephone conversation I had with you recently on the subject of safeguarding health of prisoners during the current health epidemic.
I attach herewith copies of letters sent by the HRCSL to His Lordship the Chief Justice, Hon. Attorney-General and the Acting IGP on the above subject.
Having considered all factors, our Commission wishes to make the following actions to the Department of Prisons (DOP), specifically to address the issue of overcrowding that is of particular concern during a health epidemic of this nature:
- i)DOP should take urgent action, in consultation with relevant authorities, to release those who continue to remain in remand custody due to their inability to post bail in the required sum. We are pleased to learn that you are already giving attention to the matter; and
- ii)DOP should take necessary steps to release under the licensing system that is permitted under the law convicted prisoners who are:
- a)Seriously or terminally ill;
- b)Those over the age of 70; and
- c)Those convicted of minor offences.
We fully recognize the challenges facing the prison system, particularly at present when there is a grave threat to health. Our Commission, pursuant to the mandate conferred on it under Act No. 21. of 1996, is paying special attention to the rights of those who have been deprived of liberty as they are more vulnerable to disease than the general population.
Please report back to HRCSL on an urgent basis of action taken regarding the above recommendations.
Dr. Deepika Udagama,
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka