COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) – An international human rights group has asked Sri Lanka to conduct an impartial investigation into the riots in the prison and U.S. guards’ live ammunition use, which killed eight inmates and injured 59 others were.
Amnesty International said authorities should investigate the causes of the unrest in Mahara Prison, which began Sunday evening and continued through Monday.
« Yesterday’s incident reflects prisoners’ concern about the COVID-19 threat in overcrowded prisons and inadequate safeguards, » said David Griffiths, director of the secretary general’s office at Amnesty International.
« There are already a growing number of inmates across the country who have tested positive for COVID-19, » he said in a statement.
Pandemic-related riots have increased in overcrowded prisons in Sri Lanka. Inmates have held protests in several prisons in recent weeks as the number of coronavirus cases in the facilities soars.
Police said the riot at Mahara Prison in the Western Province had turned into a riot as inmates allegedly tried to take control of the prison and many tried to flee. Prison offices and property were damaged in hand-to-hand combat, police said.
One inmate was killed in a similar riot last week in another prison. Two died in March.
More than 1. 000 inmates in five prisons tested positive for the coronavirus and at least two have died. About 50 prison guards have also tested positive.
The prisons in Sri Lanka are heavily overloaded. More than 32. 000 inmates are in facilities with a capacity of 11. 000 people.
Amnesty International also urged the authorities to consider alternatives to custody such as parole or early release, especially of detainees who do not pose a significant threat to the public, in order to reduce the congestion. It was also asked to provide prisoners with the same standard of health available in the community, including prevention, testing and treatment for COVID-19.
Prison Minister Sudarshini Fernandopulle informed parliament on Monday that all measures have been taken to prevent infections in prisons and that isolation and treatment will begin as soon as cases of coronavirus are found in the facilities.
« There was an attempt to escape in Mahara Prison and the guards were able to stop it by shooting, » she said.
« This has to be investigated by an independent committee as we are also interested in knowing who is behind this, » she said.
Sri Lanka is at 23. 987 confirmed cases, including 118 deaths, amid an increase in coronavirus infections. Only 13 deaths were reported between March, when the first case was discovered in the country, and October.
Sri Lanka, riot, prison riot, Mahara prison, prisoner
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