The Sri Lanka-based Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) presented a special report on the violations of the human rights of prisoners and the local authorities’conduct in this regard, to the Human Rights Officer – the Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Procedures Branch – Mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Krystel Abi Habib.
The report was handed over by the Chairman of the CPRP, Attorney-at-Law Senaka Perera on the sidelines of the ongoing 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.
Addressing a Media briefing yesterday (12) in Colombo, Perera while expressing the organisation’s vehement opposition to the death penalty and the President’s proposed implementation of capital punishment on convicts on death row for drug-related offences who are in drug-related crime while being incarcerated, on the basis of social inequalities and tensions that give rise to crime and that no one is born a criminal, claimed that Sri Lanka’s Police was largely unprofessional . He cited the incident where two Rathgama-based businessmen were tortured and burnt to death by the Police as an example of whether one could expect a proper investigation regarding an incident from the Police. He also noted that Prison officers too had been arrested for bringing in drugs into the prisons.
Perera observed that in connection with the November 2012 massacre of 27 prisoners at the Welikada Prison, no statement had been recorded from the then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa yet. He queried as to why the latter was being afforded immunity or special privileges.
“There is something wrong in the entire process behind the plan to execute the death penalty selectively. It is a case of destroying a few to protect a few and also build up certain politicians’ tattered political image in the process through populist sentiments. We need the rule of law”, he said.
Also speaking at the Press conference, Secretary of the CPRP, Sudesh Nandimal Silva demanded from the President that blood tests be administered to the family members of politicians, especially to their children to ascertain whether they engaged in the use of drugs such as cocaine which he noted was the rich man’s drug and could not be afforded by the poor. He claimed that the capitalist class in the country imported drugs while the oppressed poor were targeted for the death penalty. He reiterated that prisons should be correctional facilities and institutions for rehabilitation.
Elsewhere, the CPRP also pointed out that certain provisions in the Bill for a Counter Terrorism Act, the latter which seeks to replace the Prevention of Terrorism Act, could be construed to define certain persons and groups as terrorists, claiming that it also afforded the Police wide discretion in this regard.
-By Ruwan Laknath Jayakody