11 prisoners were killed and over 100 injured when Sri Lankan prison guards opened fire at Mahara prison, near Colombo, during unrest on 29 November.
Inmates were demanded to be freed after at least a thousand inmates, out of an estimated 30,000 inmates, tested positive. Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana, claimed guards were instructed to use force in order to bring under control the unrest.
Activists have been calling for prisoners to be released due to concern over the coronavirus and Sri Lanka’s government has stated that they will consider releasing thousands on bail. Meera Srinivasan notes that violent response to prisoners demands “evoked memories of the 2012 riots at Sri Lanka’s Welikada prison when police shot dead 27 inmates”.
Inmates were also mistreated in 2008, at Mahara Prison, alongside various other prisons in Colombo, after the prison's reportedly verbally and sexually abused Tamil inmates.
Sri Lanka’s Health Promotion Bureau has claimed that the current number of COVID-19 cases is 23, 987 cases and that there 118 deaths. Sri Lankan Justice Minister Ali Sabry has appointed a five-member committee to investigate the violence and killings.
Amnesty International has called for an impartial investigation into the attack and urged authorities to address the underlying causes of the unrest “severely overcrowded prisons and the inadequate measure in place to protect them”.