The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) raising concerns on the death of a main murder suspect, H.L. Lasantha alias ‘Tinker Lasantha’ during a Police shootout said the incident has the hallmarks of an extra-judicial killing by the Sri Lanka Police, while calling on the IGP to explain his failure to protect the suspect who was in Police custody.
BASL in a statement noted that on 25 November 2021, the Attorney representing Lasantha contacted the President of BASL to state that his client has been apprehended by the officers of the Kalutara Divisional Criminal Investigation Bureau and that he has information that his client will be killed in custody by the Police under the pretext of it happening during a shootout whilst being taken to show weapons.
‘’Immediately thereupon, the President of the BASL informed the same to the Inspector General of Police via email and text message following which the Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission (HRCSL) in charge of Inquiries and Investigations as well as the Director Inquiries and Investigations of the Commission were informed’’ BASL added.
President of the BASL also informed Governor of the Northern Province Jeevan Thiyagarajah and HRCSL together with Thiyagarajah confirmed that they had contacted the authorities and informed them of the complaint and requested them to intervene to ensure the safety of the suspect, they said adding however that Lasantha was killed during a Police shootout.
BASL emphasised that this killing comes at a time when Sri Lanka’s human rights record is under scrutiny and there are threats of consequences to the country and its economy as a result of the deteriorating human rights situation adding that the fact that not only the BASL but also the HRCSL and a senior figure from the Executive had reached out to the police to prevent a grave violation and that the killing occurred despite such interventions are matters of very grave concern.
It was further noted that the Police appear to continue to pay scant regard to previous decisions of the highest courts in the land on the need for rights of suspects to be protected whilst in the custody of the State while adding that previous incidents too have not been investigated properly and no action has been taken by the authorities to bring the culprits to justice leading to allegations of a climate of impunity. “Such failures have resulted in the whole process of administration of justice being called into question and the loss of public confidence in its efficacy,” BASL said.
Responsibility for these killings must lie not only with the persons who carried out the killings but also all those who command them and those who failed to ensure the safety and security of the suspect, it was stated adding that the BASL will take further steps on this matter and will keep its membership and the general public informed of the same.