Prevent deaths of suspects in custody

By Ruwan Laknath Jayakody | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 24 2020

By Ruwan Laknath Jayakody

The Committee for Protecting the Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) on 23 October, seeking an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of underworld kingpin and drug baron Makandure Madush.

The Committee stated, the said death should be probed on the basis of Article 13(4) of the Constitution and as to whether a violation of it occurred in the matter at hand. Article 13(4) holds among others, that “No person (includes suspects in Police custody, prisoners including those in remand custody, and persons who have been deprived of their liberty) shall be punished with death except by the order of a competent Court, made in accordance with the procedure established by the law”. 

The Police claimed that Madush, who was taken by the officers of the Colombo Crimes Division early 20 October, to an apartment in the Laksetha Sevana housing complex in Apple Watta, Maligawatta, to locate a stock of heroin, had succumbed to injuries sustained in a crossfire ensuing from a gun battle that had erupted between the Police and a group of suspects at the said location. The deceased Madush was also under investigation in connection with murder and extortion. 

The Committee questioned the timing of the site visit cum raid and further queried as to why special additional security was not provided to the deceased detainee who was a treasure trove of information and evidence concerning large scale criminal activities. 

Speaking to Ceylon Today, Chairman of the Committee, Attorney Senaka Perera said, the Committee had written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa urging the latter to take necessary steps to prevent such deaths from occurring whilst suspects and accused parties are in the custody of the State, which is theoretically considered to be the safest form of custody.

He said, with Madush’s demise and the resultant destruction of evidence, many others including criminals would be able to evade the net of the law. 

He also questioned the narrative put forward by the Police to explain Madush’s end, citing bad precedents from the past where suspects had died while in Police custody when they had, according to the Police, attempted to escape from the Police by jumping into a body of water or attempted to attack the Police by throwing grenades despite being restrained.   

“In the process of meting out justice, there is a legal procedure to be followed concerning how suspects or accused parties are ultimately punished. Punishment can only be imposed by the Courts in the Judiciary. What is taking place at present is contrary to and outside this process. We don’t condone this state of affairs.”  

Further, the Committee requested the Commission to recommend to the Government to refrain from taking suspects or prisoners outside their confines, sans Judicial approval and supervision, in order to locate arms (as such is risky) or to ascertain information. The Committee requested that the Commission make available their report in this regard to both the Government and the public. 

By Ruwan Laknath Jayakody | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 24 2020

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