The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has informed W.A.M. Shelton Perera, Director of Ragama hospital in written, not to cremate bodies in Mahara incident until the investigations are over.
The commission said the bodies were a part of an investigation that had already begun. Therefore, the HRCSL has stated that the bodies should be preserved in a manner compatible with health requirements but not be cremated or destroyed in any other way until the autopsy proceedings in relation to their death is concluded.
The commission has recommended further that, external examination of the bodies such as photographing can be commenced where possible and access should be provided to the forensic team for the said purpose.
The letter also states:
“We were informed by the authorities that the bodies of the eleven people who were killed at Mahara Prison on 29/30 November were handed over to the Colombo North Teaching Hospital on 30 November and are now in your custody.
We note from media reports that 8 of the 11 people who were shot to death have been found to have been infected by the COVID-19 virus.
While we are aware of the regulations in relation to disposal of bodies of those infected by the virus, we write to remind you that these bodies form part of an investigation that has already commenced. Therefore, they should be preserved in a manner compatible with health requirements but not be cremated or destroyed in any other way until the autopsy proceedings in relation to their death is concluded. Further, where possible, external examination of the bodies such as photographs etc can be commenced and access should be provided to the forensic team for this purpose.
Our inquiries reveal that although your hospital lacks the facilities for performing autopsies on bodies of people who were infected with the virus, the mortuary at the Infectious Diseases Hospital at Kotikawatte does have the required facilities and permission should be sought from the Magistrate for seeking their expertise if required.
The HRCSL is specially required to ensure the welfare of those deprived of the liberty under Section 11(d) of the HRCSL Act No. 21 of 1996 and this letter is being written under the authority of the same.”