Pardon for remand prisoners held without trial | Sunday Observer

Pardon for remand prisoners held without trial

The committee appointed by President Maitripala Sirisena to look into the problem of prison congestion is considering a pardon for remand prisoners being held without trial for long period to reduce congestion in prisons, Leader of the House and Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella told parliament yesterday.

“We have to give a pardon to deserving prisoners who are in remand custody”, the Minister said.

Minister Kiriella said President has appointed a committee with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe and officials from relevant departments to look into the problem including possible pardon for deserving cases.

Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardena also said that a pardon for all remand prisoners, not only LTTE suspects, is under consideration.

The Minister made these remarks when Chief Opposition Whip and JVP MP Anura Kumara Dissanayaka during the question and answer session, asked Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs Minister D.M. Swaminathan about the details of the number of LTTE cadres in prison.

MP Dissanayake said that the Government should consider granting a pardon to remand prisoners who were being held for many years when the sentences for the crimes they may have committed would entail short prison terms.

“Remand prisoners may or may not be guilty of a crime. Some of them are locked up for committing offences when their prison term if convicted may be less than the time they spend in remand prison. Being remanded for long periods criminalizes even innocent people,” he said

Minister Swaminathan admitted that there is a severe problem of congestion in prisons but a pardon for prisoners would have to be decided by the President.

He said 10,790 LTTE cadres surrendered to the Government or were taken into custody at the end of the war in May 2009.

He said of the LTTE members who surrendered to the Government or were taken into the custody, 12,173 have been rehabilitated and re-integrated into society upto by now.

The Minister said a detailed report on people on remand for over one year will be presented for the information of the Justice Ministry.

“Necessary steps with respect to remand prisoners in custody for a long time are taken by the Task Force for Minimising Prison Congestion under the patronage of Justice Minister,” he added.

He said release of Remand Prisoners Act (No.08 of 1991) has been updated and steps have been taken to inform to the relevant Courts of Justice through the Ministry of Justice.