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Sri Lanka: Killing of 11 Mahara prison inmates (2020 Nov) is a crime; Arrest the culprits – Judiciary

Image: Mothers called for justice for their sons killed.

Welisara Magistrate Thusitha Dhammika Uduwawidana has deemed the deaths of the 11 inmates at the Mahara Prison, who were shot dead during a riot that erupted in 2020, a ‘crime’.

The magistrate mentioned this on Thursday, delivering the verdict of the magisterial inquest on the incident.

He, thereby, ordered the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to immediately arrest the prison officers who were involved in the shooting and to produce them before the court without delay.

On 29 November 2020, a total of 11 inmates died while 106 others and 02 prison officials sustained injuries during a tense situation at the Mahara Prison when a group of inmates had attempted to break out from prison following a conflict with prison officials.

The tense situation broke out during a protest launched by the inmates, demanding hospital treatment for prisoners who were infected with Covid-19.

It was later reported that the prison authorities had opened fire to control the situation and a team of Police Special Task Force (STF) personnel was deployed to assist prison authorities. Subsequently, a massive fire had broken out at the prison when several inmates set fire to the health office, a storage area, and several other places within the prison.

The prison officials later claimed that the rioting inmates had broken into the prison’s medical section and consumed the stored pharmaceuticals including the ones used to treat mental illnesses, resulting in more violent conduct among the prisoners.

Later, a five-member experts’ committee was appointed to conduct post-mortem examinations on the 11 inmates who died in the Mahara Prison riot. The panel comprised Dr Sandun Wijewardena, Chief Judicial Medical Officer (JMO), Colombo North Teaching Hospital in Ragama; Dr S.D.C Perera, JMO, Infectious Diseases Hospital in Mulleriyawa; Dr P.P. Dassanayake – Chief JMO, Colombo South Teaching Hospital in Kalubowila; Jean Perera, Professor, Faculty of Medicine at the University of Colombo; P.G. Madawala, Firearms Specialist & Deputy Government Analyst.

Delivering the verdict of the magisterial inquest, Welisara Magistrate Uduwawidana said, pursuant to the observations made by the experts’ committee, the deceased inmates had not been shot below despite the prison officers claiming otherwise.

He also raised doubts as to whether this shooting was indeed an attempt to disperse the rioting inmates.

As per the said report, none of the deceased inmates had consumed pharmaceuticals that could have intoxicated them, the magistrate noted further.

Thereby, he called for the immediate arrest of the prison officials who ordered the shooting and those who carried out the shooting.

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