End the crackdown on peaceful protests in Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan authorities have fiercely clamped down on protests and demonized protesters during a period of economic crisis and hardship in the country. Since widespread protests began in March 2022, the police and armed forces have routinely misused tear gas and water cannons against largely peaceful protesters. On two occasions, security forces fired live ammunition at protesters, killing at least one person on 19 April 2022.

Amnesty International’s research shows a pattern in the unlawful use of tear gas, water cannon and the misuse of batons by law enforcement officials with video evidence revealing their conduct regularly didn’t meet international law and standards on the use of force.

Since President Ranil Wickremesinghe came into power in July 2022, over 140 protesters and protest organizers have been arrested, routinely flouting due process, creating chilling effect on the protest movement. President Ranil Wickremesinghe has also publicly labelled protesters as “terrorists” and “fascists”, in a bid to demonize protesters. Additionally, the government has employed the draconian anti-terror law Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which in the past has been used to target, and harass minorities, activists, journalists and critical voices, to detain three protesters.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe must immediately stop the repression, intimidation and reprisals against peaceful protesters.

Act now and urge President Ranil Wickremesinghe to:

  • Respect, protect and fulfil the right to peaceful assembly, thereby ending the use of force against peaceful protesters;
  • Carry out impartial, effective investigations into the unlawful use of force against protesters and ensure the law enforcement officials are held accountable for abuses during protests;
  • Drop all charges for participation in an “unlawful assembly” brought against peaceful protesters solely for their peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and release unconditionally those facing such charges;
  • Repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and issue an immediate moratorium on its use.