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Court delivers damning verdict on Mahara Prison Massacre

Sri Lanka’s leading organisation for the protection of Prisoner’s rights has won a major legal battle.

The Committee for Protecting the Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) won this major case when the Welisara Magistrate court ordered the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) ordered to ‘arrest and produce in court all the prison officials who were involved in the murder of 11 prisoners’ in the Mahara prison three years ago.

CPRP General Secretary Sudesh Nandimal Silva told the media that justice has been served.

“We respect the court for the verdict that it delivered. That is because we genuinely hoped that justice would be served. Today, that justice is being served”.

11 persons were massacred inside the Mahara prison during the deadly Covid-19 pandemic. The state continued with its oppression as the CPRP continued to fight for justice in connection with the said massacre- Silva said.

Ordering the arrest of all prison officials that were involved in the ‘Murder of 11 prisoners of the Mahara Prison three years ago, Welisara Magistrate Thusitha Dhammika Udiwawidana in the order on 26th of April last stated “the manner in which the inmates had been shot does not appear to be a result of opening fire to manage an insurgency or for a humanitarian mission’.

The court’s Verdict also points out that the 11 prisoners that were murdered had died after being shot in their upper body.

“If the shooting was ordered to manage an insurgency, prisoners should have been shot below the knee. However, the court ruled that the 11 prisoners were murdered by shooting them above the abdomen area. The prisoners had been shot in their chests and heads.” Silva said.

Pointing out that those who follow and enforce illegal orders by those in higher chairs as part of their power struggles- the CPRP Gen Sec cautions prison officials not to spoil their own lives.

“At least henceforth, perform your job as a job. Do not become contractors that commit murders on contracts. You will have to suffer in jail your whole life.”

Apart from directing to arrest and produce all the prison officials involved in the heinous crime of massacring 11 inmates, the magistrate further ordered to issue death certificates for those killed brutally inside the Mahara Prison and hand them over to their relatives.

The killings in the Mahara Prison happened on the 30th of November and the 1st of December in 2020. Over 100 persons sustained grievous injuries in the attack.

According to CPRP, the eyewitnesses of the Mahara Prison massacre were tortured and forcibly detained there.

In early December 2020, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) stated that the protest- which led to the riots- broke out over the transfer of a group of Covid-19 infected persons from Welikada to the Mahara Prison.

The HRCSL at that time concluded that three main factors, including congestion within the prison, had led to the prisoners’ protest and the subsequent clash.

Lawyers who appeared for the victims were branded as “agents of NGOs” and humiliated by the Attorney General’s Department. In Dec 2020 Human Rights Lawyer Senaka Perera revealed that State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne had claimed in open court that the lawyers who appeared for the aggrieved parties did so as per the needs of NGOs.

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