Japan prosecutors drop case against officials over Sri Lankan woman's death

Prosecutors in Nagoya, central Japan, have decided not to bring charges against immigration officials over the death of a Sri Lankan woman at a detention facility last year.

Wishma Sandamali died in March 2021 after complaining of ill health at the facility, run by the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau. She had been detained for overstaying her visa. She was 33 years old.

Japan's Immigration Services Agency published a report on her death that pointed out that the facility had an insufficient system for providing medical care.

Members of the woman's family filed a criminal complaint against the officials last year, accusing them of homicide. The relatives said Wishma died in detention without appropriate medical care because at least seven officials, including the bureau chief at the time, did not care if she died.

The Nagoya District Public Prosecutors Office decided on Friday not to indict the officials, saying there were no grounds for the charges. Prosecutors also decided to drop a separate complaint against immigration officials alleging them of abandonment resulting in death.

The prosecutors said they were unable to identify the cause of Wishma's death, and that they could not identify a causal link between the facility's handling of Wishma and her death.

The prosecutors said they had conducted all necessary inquiries, including a close examination of the autopsy report and other records as well as hearing from experts from various fields to try to determine the cause of death.

Wishma's two younger sisters and a lawyer representing them spoke to reporters after they heard the prosecutors' conclusion.

One of the sisters, Poornima, said the decision was truly regrettable as the relatives have been working hard for more than a year. She asked how people would feel if something similar were to happen to a member of their own family.

Lawyer Ibusuki Shoichi said it is not good for Japanese society if no one is held criminally responsible for Wishma's death.

He indicated that the family would request an inquest panel review of the prosecutors' decision.