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Lawyers Forum for the People urges Rights Commissioner to monitor situation and defend the right to protest in Sri Lanka

Image: Sri Lanka police tired to stop peaceful protestors marching to #GotaGoGama on 24th April 2022. 

In a letter addressed to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Lawyers Forum for People has urged her to exert immediate and maximum pressure on the Sri Lanka Police to;
i. Follow and act in accordance with international conventions and national laws to use legal and minimum force that is reasonable, proportionate and necessary in dealing with peaceful assemblies;
ii. Respect the right to freedom of expression, opinion and assembly and especially the right to protest;
iii. Take action against those who have or attempted to suppress freedom of expression  opinion  and assembly and especially the right to protest;

The letter:

Michelle Bachelet,
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Dear Madam,

Concerns over Sri Lanka Police using live ammunition against citizens in protests

1.We write to you raising concerns about alleged state sponsored violence and illegal, unnecessary and disproportionate force used by law enforcement against citizens exercising their fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Sri Lanka to engage in peaceful assembly.

The context

2. On the 19th of April 2022, there was a crowd of people in Rambukkana in Kegalle ,District of Sri Lanka, demanding for the provision of fuel and against the increase in fuel prise. They were engaged in protest in accordance with the fundamental right of all citizens of Sri Lanka to engage in peaceful assembly under Article i-4 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

3. A tense situation was reported and the police opened fire on the protesters with the Inspector General of Police C.D Wickramaratne later issuing a statement saying that
the police had acted to stop a group of protesters from setting fire to a truck containing 30,000 litres of fuel. Tear gas and the use of live ammunition was reported. One of the protesters was also killed and several were injured.

4.Inspector-General of Police (lGP) C.D, Wickremeratne appeared before the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and during the probe, the lGP told the Commission that he did not give instructions to the Police to open fire on the protesters. However, the police report on the shooting revealed that four T-56 firearms and 35 rounds of ammunition had been used by the police during the incident.

5 Furthermore, eyewitness accounts claimed that it was not a protester/protesters who had set fire to the bowser truck but another individual and that police had chased after those who were not even involved in the protest and fired at them. It was claimed that the deceased individual was one of those who had been chased and shot at.

6. Reports of Police intimidating eye witnesses and using correction fluid on documents/notes that were to be presented before court were also noted

Our appeal

7. Closely monitor the behaviour of Sri Lanka police on regular basis, including through official observation / solidarity visits to the Galle Face Green and other sites of protests;

8. Exert immediate and maximum pressure on the Sri Lanka Police to;

i. Follow and act in accordance with international conventions and national laws to use legal and minimum force that is reasonable, proportionate and necessary in dealing with peaceful assemblies;
ii. Respect the right to freedom of expression, opinion and assembly and especially the right to protest;
iii. Take action against those who have or attempted to suppress freedom of expression  opinion  and assembly and especially the right to protest;
iv. Ensure that evidence of eyewitnesses and documents are not tampered with.

l thank you.
Sincerely yours,
Senaka Perera
Lawyers Forum for the People
[email protected] om I +94-77 -2817 164

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