Uphold rights of Welikada prisoners, says CSHR
In its recommendations based on a study conducted at the Welikada remand Prison, the Centre for the Study of Human Rights have stated that prison staff should have access to training in areas relevant to their professional development, such as psychology and sociology with better facilities being provided to remand prisoners awaiting trial.

The purpose of the study was to examine whether the human rights of remand prisoners held in the Welikada prison were violated or respected by prison authorities. In the study which was conducted over a period of three months, 150 prisoners were interviewed and the simple observation method was used. The study based on a survey was conducted by the CSHR in 1998.

The report was made public a few days ago to coincide with world human rights day. The report states that while every government is duty bound to bring to justice those responsible for crimes, but in Sri Lanka in certain instances the Judicial system seems to lack credibility. This includes incidents where persons have been allegedly tortured or ill treated by law enforcement officials.

The study reveals how human rights standards are maintained within Sri Lanka's Judicial system and how far the justice system is able to protect the rights of remandees and meet international standards of fairness.

The study shows that in the Welikada prisons both remand and convicted prisoners were confined within the same premises except during the time they spend in their cells. The Welikada prison does not have separate cells for different types of offences nor do the officials differentiate them.

It was also revealed that there are many reasons as to why remandees are detained for long periods of time, one of which is the financial situation of the detainees. The suspects held for minor offences may have the chance to avoid spending time in remand prison by providing surety bail but are unable to do so because of financial reasons.

Conflicts among prisoners was another issue that was looked into where regular incidences of violence have been reported almost daily. A high incidence of fights and beatings have also been noted. Violence among prisoners is common and frequently reported, fights between rival groups are daily occurrences. The causes for riots are generally due to the shortage of food, lack of clothing and water and proper sanitation.

Among the recommendations it has been proposed that prisoners under trial in jail, should be given sufficient space, water and food the opportunity to write letters to relatives and friends would further help defuse the tension. Another suggestion is that prisoners are provided sufficient protection from mental, physical and sexual abuse.

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