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The National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights 2011 – 2016 as well as the full series of  Sri Lanka Rights Watch are available at the Peace & Reconciliation Website.

Amongst the Ministries and Departments that have contributed most actively to work on the National Human Rights Action Plan are the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Prison Reform, and the Department of Prisons. They have explained to us the problems they face, and have made it clear that they would welcome a reduction in the numbers they have to take charge of. Unfortunately that aspect of Prison Reform is not their responsibility, it comes under the Ministry of Justice.

Unfortunately Justice too has some difficulties in this regard, for the Prisons are full beyond measure because people are committed to them by Magistrates. Unfortunately Magistrates do not carry out their duties with the full awareness that the system in fact demands of them, and most of them, as the Commissioner General of Prisons told us, hardly visit the prisons, to see the consequences of the, at best careless, certainly callous, approach they adopt.

We heard this during a visit to the Prisons arranged by the Human Rights Commission. Its active Chairman, and members of his staff, including several Commissioners, had asked the Commissioner General to permit us to look over some of the areas in his charge. This is in fact a right the HRC enjoys, and I believe its officials do exercise this, but sadly they do not have enough staff to maintain the practice at the level of frequency that is needed. However, even if they did so, and were therefore able to prevent the abuses that occur because of individual aberrations, they could not prevent the systemic abuse that results because of overcrowding.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

September 2012
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