The Centre for Human Rights and Development together with 22 civil society organizations released a Statement condemning the Presidential pardon and release of former Army Staff Sergeant R. M. Sunil Rathnayake who was convicted for the brutal murder of 08 civilians including a five-year-old child in Mirusuvil, Jaffna on December 24, 2000. Excerpts of the statement follow:
On March 26, 2020, President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa granted a presidential pardon and released convicted death row prisoner and mass murderer, former Army Staff Sergeant R. M. Sunil Rathnayake. While the country is on lockdown due to COVID-19, the President has seized this opportunity to deal a lethal blow to the rule of law to show that military perpetrators of heinous crimes will be given cover at the highest level despite the rulings of the Supreme Court the highest court in our land. In pardoning Ratnayake, the President has given his blessing to a cold-blooded killer who murdered a five-year-old child and seven other innocent civilians.
For the four families directly affected, who have suffered from poverty and immeasurable personal loss, their small sliver of solace has been snatched away. When the sole surviving witness was previously visited by state intelligence officers soon after the presidential election, he expressed his apprehension that, he has no security or protection if the accused is released. Now that threat is real, and our laws and structures are hardly equipped to protect him. It is a matter of regret and national tragedy that neither the state nor government authorities have over the years offered reparations or compensations to the families of the dead who have been deprived of their bread winners and are condemned to live in poverty for the rest of their lives.
In perspective, the act of granting presidential pardon to a convicted criminal conveys the chilling message to the public that, irrespective of the gravity of the offence, offenders from the security forces will not be punished even if convicted by Court of Law and that any crime or violence committed against the ethnic communities will go unpunished. The security forces including the police already enjoying high degree of impunity will surely be further emboldened by the covert encouragement by the government to commit further atrocities against the hapless and vulnerable people.
As organizations and individuals who are committed to the Rule of Law and to the protection of democratic values, we vehemently and unreservedly condemn the presidential pardon granted to Sergeant R.M. Sunil Rathnayake which said act will undoubtedly lead to further militarization of the society and contribute to disunity and distrust among communities in the country. To read the full statement click below:
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