SRI LANKA: An appeal to save the life of a witness in the prison murder case in Negombo

July 22, 2008

Hon. Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe
Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights
2, Wijerama Mawatha
Colombo 7

Fax: +94 11 269 3284 

Dear Mr. Samarasinghe,

Re: An appeal to save the life of a witness in the

A man named, Sainool Miswar, was murdered on 3rd July, 2008. He had been convicted of an offense the day before, on the 2nd July, 2008 and within 24 hours he was dead. A post mortem carried out by Judicial Medical Officer (JMO ), Channa Perera, revealed that the deceased had seven broken ribs caused by exertion of pressure with a blunt instrument.

The brother-in-law of the deceased had visited him several hours before his death when the prisoner complained that some prison guards have been assaulting him, demanding a bribe of Rs 25,000/= (around US$ 250). The brother-in-law, feeling sorry for the prisoner gave Rs 500/= to the guards, which is all he had in his possession and promised to bring back the balance of the money as soon as possible. However, hours before the brother-in-law could return the prisoner was already dead. A person who had been awaiting the payment of his bail on the same day was one Saiyadu Mohammed Abu Ubaida, 51-years-of-age, from Mundalama. He had seen the deceased prisoner at around 4 p.m. on the 2nd July and noticed that he was walking with great difficulty, hunched over. He inquired from deceased what had caused the difficulty and the deceased replied that he had been assaulted by three officers. He has then given the names of two of the guards concerned. Mr. Ubaida asked the deceased to go to the hospital and then he himself went to take a bath.

A little later he had seen that the deceased had fallen near a ditch. Together with several others, Mr. Ubaida carried the deceased to the prison hospital. There had been no prison doctor at the time but a medical doctor, who is a suspect in a criminal case incarcerated in the same prison, tried to give him cardio pulmonary resuscitation. However, the prisoner died and a post mortem was done by the JMO. A report has now been filed in the Magistrate’s Court of Negombo and the case is proceeding.

Mr. Ubaida remained in the remand prison for several days before his bail was provided by his family. On the 11th July two prisoners assaulted Mr. Ubaida and later he was taken to the prison hospital. On the 13th, after the bail was provided he was met by the Chief Jailor who mentioned the deceased prisoner and that someone would visit him at his home about that matter. Mr. Ubaida was under the impression that he was being offered some money (about Rs 150,000/=) to keep him quiet about the prison death.

On the 17th July when Mr. Ubaida was alone at home two persons arrived to meet him and they entered into a conversation with him. During the conversation he heard the noise of a door breaking from within his house and when he went inside he was assaulted by two other persons who had entered the premises from behind. All the four persons were wearing helmets but Mr. Ubaida recognised two of them as prison officers. Mr. Ubaida was seriously assaulted and left in his house.

After his family members returned home he told of the assault and about injuries he suffered. By then he was already passing blood. He was later taken to the Negombo hospital where he is now being treated.

Mr. Ubaida and his family fear for his life as they are afraid that he may be killed in order to erase the possibility of his giving evidence about the prison death.

We urge you to take steps to provide protection for Mr. Ubaida who at the moment is still taking treatment at the Negombo hospital and also cause an inquiry into this matter. Kindly also note, not long ago another death occurred n the same prison.

Yours sincerely,

Danilo Reyes 
Programme Assistant
Asian Human Rights Commission

cc: Dr. Rajiva Wijesinghe, Secretary, Human Rights and Disaster Management

Document Type : Open Letter
Document ID : AHRC-OLT-019-2008
Countries : Sri Lanka,