Sri Lankan Security Forces Attack Peaceful Protesters: UN Report
The UN Human Rights Office has condemned the use of brutal force by Sri Lanka’s security forces on peaceful protesters most of whom were sleeping in a protest camp near presidential offices in Colombo.
In the early hours of Friday (July 22), when most of the protesters were sleeping, an estimated 2,000 security personnel, including police and military, reportedly stormed the area and tore down their tents.
The security forces allegedly beat protesters and at least 48 people were injured. Protesters were not allowed to leave the protest site for several hours and those who were injured could not receive medical attention.
“We are alarmed by the unnecessary use of force reportedly employed by Sri Lanka’s security forces to break up a protest camp only hours before the protesters indicated that it was due to be dismantled. We condemn the reports of beatings of protesters, journalists, and lawyers,” said UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Jeremy Laurence.
It was reported that security forces attacked journalists and lawyers, especially those trying to record the events or carrying cameras or phones, and at least two were arrested.
At least four journalists were beaten and assaulted by the security forces. Two have been hospitalized. Property belonging to the protesters, including tents, IT equipment and kitchen items were destroyed or confiscated. According to the Bar Association, two lawyers were assaulted by the security forces.
Journalists, lawyers, and human rights defenders have a right to monitor and report on the demonstrations and therefore should be protected in the exercise of these functions and not obstructed in any way.
The use of force against peaceful protesters runs contrary to international law, and we urge authorities to immediately halt the use of such force. Under applicable international law, gatherings can only be dispersed in exceptional cases, with use of force as a last resort where absolutely necessary and proportionate to the lawful objective sought.
“We have concerns that the raid on the camp sends a chilling message to peaceful protesters, including elsewhere in the country. Everyone has the right to peacefully demonstrate and to publicly express their frustration over the economic and political crisis, and the effect that it is having on their livelihoods and their families’ wellbeing,” Jeremy Laurence said.
He added that Sri Lanka’s economic and political crises cannot be resolved by force and only through broad consultations and dialogue, can Sri Lankans start rebuilding trust with the support of the international community.
The UN Human Rights Office urges the new President and his government to address impunity to bring genuine structural and institutional reforms for the benefit of all Sri Lankans.
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