Panel disputes prosecutor decision over detainee’s death

Courtesy of the bereaved family
Wishma Sandamali, a Sri Lankan woman who died while in detention at the immigration facility in Nagoya.

Nagoya (Jiji Press)—A Japanese prosecution inquest panel has labeled a decision by public prosecutors not to indict 13 immigration officials over the death in March 2021 of Sri Lankan detainee Wishma Sandamali in the central city of Nagoya as unjust.

The verdict was delivered on Wednesday by the Nagoya No. 1 committee for the inquest of prosecution, a panel of citizens.

The 13 immigration officials at the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau had faced criminal complaints over suspicions including murder over the death of the 33-year-old Sri Lankan woman.

Following the panel’s ruling, the Nagoya District Public Prosecutors Office will reinvestigate the case.

While saying that the cause of Wishma’s death cannot be clearly determined, the panel expressed doubt in the prosecutors’ decision not to indict the 13 officials based on the grounds that the cause of her death was not identified.

Assuming that Wishma had faced malnutrition and dehydration, the prosecutors’ decision not to indict the 13 officials for murder was reasonable, the panel said.

On the other hand, the panel said that the officials could have saved the woman’s life by sending her to a hospital, as they could have known that she was in a life-threatening condition two days before her death.

The prosecutors should reconsider whether to charge the officials with professional negligence resulting in death, as their investigation into the matter was inadequate, the panel said.

After throwing up repeatedly soon after she entered the immigration facility, Wishma died without receiving drip infusion therapy or being hospitalized, despite a test of her urine pointing to starvation.

In June this year, the Nagoya prosecutors dismissed the case against the 13 immigration officials, saying that there were no grounds for charging them due to the lack of proof in establishing a causal link between their actions and Wishma’s death.

Wishma’s bereaved family and others in August filed a complaint against the prosecutor’ decision with the panel.

The bereaved family side has also filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government with Nagoya District Court, seeking around ¥156 million in damages.