The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) in its interim recommendations on the incident at the Mahara Prison on 29 November said that the protests were sparked by the transfer of prisoners infected with the COVID-19 virus from Welikada Prison to Mahara. According to the HRCSL if the authorities responded to prison officials’ concerns over this proposed transfer and set up a separate treatment facility for prisoners, this clash and the subsequent deaths could have been completely avoided.
According to the Commissioner of the HRCSL Ramani Muttetuwegama, heavy congestion, the fear of the spread of Covid disease and the agitation against it were the causes of the conflict that killed 11 inmates at the Mahara.
One of the key recommendations of the report is that immediate action be taken to reduce congestion in prisons, including Mahara Prison.
Among other recommendations of the Human Rights Commission are:
-PCR screening of all new inmates with a focus on prisoner health and treatment,
-Provide separate treatment and facilities for all inmates infected with the virus to reduce fear among inmates,
-Provide accurate information to the families of all prisoners who have died, injured or been hospitalized,
-Facilitate continuous access to food, water, electricity, medicine and other benefits for prisoners.
HRCSL also called on the authorities to release details of the people who had died, the injured who had been transferred to Ragama Hospital and the prisoners who had been granted bail, and create a centralised register of remandees to avoid the current problem in Mahara, as well as maintain records of all vehicles transporting prisoners and remandees including their drivers and security details.
The HRCSL also made several medium-term and long-term proposals.