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Death of Tinkering Lasantha has all hallmarks of extra judicial killing: BASL

Responding to the news of wanted suspect Hewa Lunuwilage Lasantha alias Tinkering Lasantha’s death this morning (26), which Sri Lanka Police said happened during a shootout with the Police, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka in a statement said that it has all the hallmarks of an extra judicial killing.

“Once again, the Sri Lanka Police is involved in an incident which has the hallmarks of an extra judicial killing. 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,” the BASL said.

Further, the Association revealed that 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 thereafter, 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 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.

It was noted 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 rights of suspects to be protected whilst in the custody of the State,” the statement further reads.

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,” the Association further expressed.

Accordingly, the BASL said that 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 has called upon the IGP to explain his failure to protect the suspect who was in police custody and noted that further steps will be taken on this matter and will keep its membership and the general public informed of the same.