A Sri Lankan civil rights group says prisoners were killed “execution-style” during a riot on Friday, and has joined opposition calls for an independent inquiry into the riot that left 27 convicts dead.
The opposition United National Party (UNP) has alleged that many of the prisoners were shot by security forces in a cold-blooded “massacre” at the maximum-security Welikada prison in Colombo.
Sri Lankan civil rights group Platform for Freedom said it was not the first time security forces have stormed a prison unnecessarily.
“The authorities have behaved in a very barbaric manner, because these are prisoners,” Platform for Freedom’s Dr Nimalka Fernando told Radio Australia’s Asia Pacific program.
Ms Fernando, whose office is directly across the road from the prison, says some convicts had been killed “execution style”, having been found with their hands tied behind their backs.
Prisons Minister, Chandrasiri Gajadeera, on Saturday told parliament there would be an internal inquiry into the riot, but Ms Fernando said they had filled it with “their own people”, including the head of the prison.
“The government will try to cover up but I think there has to be enough international pressure,” she said.
“I think the international community has a moral right and a moral authority to even press harder than “urging” the Sri Lankan government.”
UNP spokesman, Mangala Samaraweera, said the events were “nothing but a massacre”.
“Most of the convicts appeared to have been killed in cold blood,” he said.
The Prisons Minister said 13 police commandos, four soldiers and two civilians were also injured.
The riot was sparked by a police commando raid for contraband inside the prison on Friday.
The violence continued until early Saturday with some prisoners raiding a jail armoury and grabbing about 80 weapons, including automatic rifles.
Friday’s violence was the worst prison riot in Sri Lanka since 1983, when more than 50 ethnic Tamil prisoners were massacred at the same jail by Sinhalese convicts during anti-Tamil riots that gripped the country.
Colombo police chief, Anura Senanayake, said most of those killed were hard-core criminals, some of them serving life terms.
But Ms Fernando says the government acted outside the powers given to it in the law and the Constitution.
“Even criminals who’ve undergone a judicial process, even their punishment has been given to them, by way of going through a due process,” she said. (Radio Australia)