Responding to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s decision to release Sergeant Sunil Rathnayaka, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for South Asia, Biraj Patnaik, said the government’s arbitrary decision to release Sergeant Rathnayaka sends an extremely worrying message.
“Where accountability is so rare for serious human rights violations in Sri Lanka, the government’s arbitrary decision to release Sergeant Rathnayaka sends an extremely worrying message.It means that military perpetrators of horrific crimes, even if convicted through a court of law, will be pardoned and released,” he said.
It said the pardon comes at a time when there are public calls to ease prison crowding by releasing prisoners held for, amongst others, petty crimes and those who are unable to meet bail conditions, to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
Amnesty International is also concerned by any further decisions along the same lines as pledged by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa during his election campaign. Sri Lanka is a party to the International Covenant on Civil Political Rights (ICCPR) and has an obligation to ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms have been violated have an effective remedy (Article 2).
“Using the pandemic as an opportunity to release those convicted for heinous crimes is reprehensible. Victims have a right to justice, and Sri Lanka has an obligation to ensure that justice is done. After many long years, the victims of the Mirusuvil massacre from 2000 finally got a semblance of justice in 2015. It is despicable to have that justice reversed through an arbitrary Executive decision,” said Biraj Patnaik.