Sri Lanka: Banning Commonwealth summit protests a blatant attempt to silence criticism

Sri Lanka’s reported decision to ban all protests in its capital Colombo and other locations around a key Commonwealth summit would be a blatant attempt to sweep human rights abuses under the carpet, said Amnesty International. 

According to Sri Lankan news reports, the government today announced that protests, marches and the display of banners and black flags will be banned in the city of Colombo and other locations where delegates are expected to visit during the first three weeks of November. This coincides with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo on 15-17 November.  

“This sounds like another blatant attempt to stifle civil society activism as Commonwealth heads of state meet. Sadly, it fits very well with the government’s aggressive and heavy handed efforts to silence any dissent over the past years,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director. 

“Such a ban would fly in the face of ‘Commonwealth values’ that respect human rights, including freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. This latest move should be another reminder to the Commonwealth that Sri Lanka should not be allowed to host the summit, given the country’s appalling human rights record.  

“Banning protests shows how the Sri Lankan government is trying to hide ongoing human rights abuses from visiting world leaders and media. The Commonwealth cannot allow itself to be used by the Sri Lankan government to gloss over cracks in its international image.”