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Prisoners' rights group in Sri Lanka to challenge pardon of Sri Lankan soldier

The Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) announced it plans to file a legal challenge of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa's presidential pardon of Sunil Ratnayake, at Sri Lanka's Supreme Court.

Ratnayake, a soldier who was convicted for the massacre of eight Tamil civilians in 2000 and sentenced to death in 2015, was pardoned by the Sri Lankan president this week.

As reported by FT.lk, CPRP Chairman Attorney-at-Law Senaka Perera said:

We want to know from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on what grounds he pardoned Sunil Ratnayake. His death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court and there has been no miscarriage of justice in this case and hence there are no grounds for a pardon. We have been seeking Presidential pardons for many prisoners who have committed less serious crimes and have been languishing in jail for years, some old and ailing, but they have been ignored.

The power to issue a presidential pardon is derived from Article 34(1) of the Constitution. According to Perera and other legal experts, a pardon under section 34(1) can only be issued after the president has called for a report from the trial judge, with the advice of the Attorney General, and the recommendation of the Minister of Justice.

The CPRP stated that Ratnayake's pardon "called into question the manner in which 34(1) of the Constitution was being used by an individual arbitrarily without proper review." Perera also noted that pardon powers have consistently been misused by Sri Lankan presidents and called for the pardon powers to "be given to a review board of eminent persons".

Reported in the FT.lk here.