Responding to a directive of the RTI Commission today (Tuesday July 9th), the Ministry of Justice and Prisons Reforms together with the Prisons Department released the case numbers and dates of the convictions of death row prisoners convicted for drug trafficking offences in a list sent to the Office of the President earlier this year.
Both state bodies confirmed that they had no knowledge of the four prisoners singled out by President Maithripala Sirisena for execution as announced recently. Two further appeals asking for information on the same matter against the Presidential Secretariat was fixed for hearing at a later date.
In an Order issued by Commissioners Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena, Selvy Thiruchandran and SG Punchihewa last week, the RTI Commission had called upon the Ministry and the Department to release the data. However, the Commission stated that the names of the prisoners could be released only if the prisoners expressly consented to the same in writing to be produced before the Commission in order to safeguard privacy interests. In the further appeal hearing held today at the Commission offices at the BMICH, the Prisons Department released a list of eighteen prisoners on death row with the names of seven prisoners blacked out as they had not agreed to the public release of their names.
The Prisons Department also released relevant rules and regulations issued under the Prisons Ordinance regarding treatment of death row prisoners and further, information as to the recruitment of executioners to perform the task on an RTI appeal filed by journalist Malinda Seneviratne.
The RTI Act states that Information Officers must consider RTI applications involving a risk to life and liberty in forty eight hours. Though the Act is silent on similar urgency in regarding the consideration of appeals, it is learnt through lawyers appearing before the Commission today that the same principle was applied in hearing the appeals on a priority basis, filed by the Centre for Policy Alternatives, journalist Malinda Seneviratne and Transparency International, Sri Lanka.