This killing comes at a time that 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.
In a statement the BASL said, On the night of 25th November 2021, Mr. Sanjaya Ariyadasa, Attorney-at-Law contacted the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) to inform him that he has instructions that a client by the name of H.L. Lasantha alias Tinkering Lasantha had 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 shoot-out 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.
He further informed 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.
As an additional measure, the President of the BASL also informed the Governor of the Northern Province Mr. Jeewan Thiyagarajah who also heads the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA) of this information.
The HRCSL and Mr. Thiyagarajah confirm that they had contacted the authorities and informed them of the complaint and requested them to intervene to ensure the safety of the suspect.
However, this morning (26th November) the media has reported that the suspect had been shot dead while being taken to recover hidden weapons.
The statement said 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.
The police appear to continue to pay scant regard to previous decisions of the highest courts in the land on the need for the rights of suspects to be protected whilst in the custody of the State.
The BASL notes 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.
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.
The BASL calls upon the IGP to explain his failure to protect the suspect who was in police custody.
The BASL will take further steps on this matter and will keep its membership and the general public informed of the same.