The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has expressed its deep concern on the reported grant of a Presidential Pardon to Corporal Sunil Ratnayake.
Ratnayake was convicted of eight counts of murder by a Trial-at-Bar, which was subsequently confirmed by a unanimous judgment of a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka on 24 April 2019.
In a letter addressed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the HRCSL said it is deeply concerned due both to the serious nature of the charges brought by the Attorney General against Ratnayaka, which included the killing of three children, and the strength of the Supreme Court judgment which upheld the conviction.
The case against Ratnayake arises from the killing of 8 persons including 3 children aged 5, 13 and 15 years on 19 December 2000 in the village of Mirusuvil in the Jaffna District. The bodies were then disposed of and later dug up consequent to a Judicial Inquiry. According to the Presiding Judicial Officer and the then officer in charge of the Military Police in the Jaffna Peninsula, the location of the bodies was identified by Sunil Ratnayake, the HRCSL pointed out.
The HRCSL said the granting of a presidential pardon to a person convicted of such a heinous offence and whose conviction was upheld unanimously by the Supreme Court sends a negative message that reinforces allegations of impunity and lack of justice for victims of violations in Sri Lanka.
The Supreme Court judgment in the Mirusuvil case was considered a landmark judgment, similar to that in the Embilipitiya school boy murder case several years ago, both of which contributed in a significant manner to address the issue of impunity in the country. There have been very few such convictions. The granting of a presidential pardon to the convict of such a judgment sets a very negative precedent.
The letter further read that Ratnayaka was sentenced to death per the law of the country which makes that sentence mandatory for murder.
The HRCSL said it has been resolute in its opposition to the death penalty and has repeatedly called for its abolition and replacement with suitable alternate punishment. The HRCSL’s expression of concern about the pardon in this instance does not in any manner amount to an acceptance of the death penalty.
The HRCSL concluded the letter by stating that it wishes to emphasize that a person convicted of such an offence should undergo commensurate punishment and it would have been in agreement if the President had commuted the death sentence to long term imprisonment given the serious nature of the offence. (Colombo Gazette)