The Attorneys-At-Law (AALs) appearing for the aggrieved party in the recent Mahara Prison incident, namely the families of the 11 deceased prisoners, announced the formation of a collective including the parents and other family members of the deceased, with the view to obtaining justice for the victims and relief in the form of compensation.
The incident at the Mahara Prison on 29 and 30 November resulted in the deaths of 11 prisoners, all of whom have been identified, while eight of whom have reportedly posthumously tested positive for COVID-19, causing injuries to both inmates and officers, and damage to property.
Further, the Chairman of the Committee for Protecting the Rights of Prisoners, AAL Senaka Perera, who appears for the aggrieved party, speaking to Ceylon Today ahead of the resumption of the hearings of the proceedings into the 11 deaths, at the inquest (case number B/3118/2020) at the Wattala/Welisara Magistrate’ Court today (16) when Wattala/Welisara Magistrate, Buddhika Sri Ragala is scheduled to receive the post-mortem reports submitted confidentially by a five-member panel of senior judicial medical officers, a forensic medicine academic, and a ballistics expert, and would subsequently make a call on whether or not to bury or cremate the deceased, noted that they would reiterate their previous application in Court that the 11 bodies should not be cremated post-autopsy but instead be buried.
“In addition to the physical evidence, there are prisoners who were eyewitnesses to this incident and other witnesses who possess information regarding the incident. Presently, they are in the custody of prisons. Therefore, they may not reveal all of what they know now because if they do, they would have to go back to prison after giving testimony and may have to face intolerable conditions owing to their testimony which may implicate members of the Prisons authority and/or other prisoners. Thus, they will only reveal such once released from prisons and when they do, if the bodies are cremated instead of being buried, then the future course of the criminal proceedings into the matter would be left incomplete.”
Perera also noted that the relevant authorities including the Prisons Department and the Government were duty bound to provide information to the relatives of the deceased on the findings of the post-mortem examinations, and subsequently issue death certificates which are essential in connection with matters such as, among others, obtaining compensation.
Moreover, Perera added that parents of the deceased who are interested in finding out what happened to their children and the future course of action concerning the process of obtaining justice for the victims, are also scheduled to make an appearance at the Court today.
At the last hearing on 9 December, Magistrate Sri Ragala informed that a suitable order concerning whether or not to bury or cremate the deceased subsequent to the completion of the autopsies would be taken in consideration of the fact that this concerns a criminal matter and also the evidence involved.
[source – https://ceylontoday.lk/news/families-and-attorneys-to-form-collective]