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Sri Lanka: Authorities must exercise restraint in use of force and facilitate the right to peaceful assembly

Responding to the news that one protester had been killed and dozens injured as a result of the unlawful use of water cannons and tear gas by the police in Colombo in Sri Lanka on Sunday, Harindrini Corea, Regional Researcher for the Right to Protest at Amnesty International said,

“It is worrying that even after months of widespread protests in the country, the Sri Lankan police needs to be constantly reminded of their duty to facilitate the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and exercise restraint in the use of force while policing assemblies. Their actions over the last several months have cost the lives of many peaceful protestors including another death today.

Videos from yesterday show that the protesters were in a confined space without the possibility for dispersal or escape and yet the police used water cannons and tear gas in violation of international human rights law and standards on the use of force.

Harindrini Corea, Regional Researcher at Amnesty International

“Less lethal weapons that have indiscriminate effects and a high potential for harm must not be used where there is no widespread violence against persons during a peaceful assembly. Videos from yesterday show that the protesters were in a confined space without the possibility for dispersal or escape and yet the police used water cannons and tear gas in violation of international human rights law and standards on the use of force.

“Independent and impartial investigations must be promptly launched into all allegations of human rights violations, including the deaths reported in the context of the protests, so that all those found responsible are brought to justice in fair trials.”

Background:

On Sunday 26 February 2023, the National People’s Power party held a protest in Colombo against the postponement of the local Government elections.

The Sri Lanka police responded with excessive use of water cannons and tear gas on the peaceful protests resulting in the death of one person, with more than two dozen injured and hospitalized.