Sri Lankan authorities must immediately repeal emergency rules and firing orders that give excessive powers to the police and military, and take immediate action to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of peaceful protesters, said Amnesty International today.
The authorities must also refrain from using the state of emergency as a pretext to restrict the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, including at protest sites such as “Gotagogama” in the country.
Following the President’s proclamation of a state of emergency on May 6 and a nationwide curfew from May 9 to 12, backdated emergency regulations were issued on the night of May 9 may. They give sweeping powers to the police and armed forces to search for and arrest “suspects” without due process guarantees. On May 9, protesters who had been demonstrating peacefully outside the presidential secretariat for more than a month were violently attacked by pro-government supporters after they were allegedly incited to violence by senior party leaders at Temple Trees, the Prime Minister’s official residence. minister in Colombo. Police largely witnessed the violence, doing little to effectively protect peaceful protesters and their protest site, although they used tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters days before May 6.
“The Sri Lankan authorities should conduct a prompt, thorough, impartial, independent, effective and transparent investigation into reports of violent attacks on peaceful protesters. The authorities must bring to justice those suspected of being responsible and ensure access to justice and effective remedies for victims,” said Yamini Mishra, Regional Director for South Asia at Amnesty International.
“The attacks look like a deliberate decision by the police to allow pro-government groups to physically assault peaceful protesters, destroy structures and wreak havoc on the ‘Gotagogama’ protest site. Authorities have an obligation to provide an environment for protesters to peacefully exercise their human rights and to end violent attacks on protesters,” added Yamini Mishra.
Elements of anti-government groups responded to the May 9 attack by beating pro-government supporters and destroying buses believed to have transported them. This escalated into targeting parliamentarians with damage to their vehicles and arson attacks on their homes, businesses and party offices. Authorities say nine people have died and more than 220 people have been injured in the violence that erupted. In addition, 41 vehicles were set on fire, 61 vehicles were damaged and 136 material damage incidents were recorded.
Justice and accountability of the Sri Lankan authorities are the need of the hour.
Yamini Mishra, Regional Director for South Asia at Amnesty International
“Justice and accountability of the Sri Lankan authorities are the need of the hour. An effective and transparent investigation is needed to bring those responsible for the violence to justice. The country is heading towards a deepening crisis while responsibility and solutions to the economic crisis – the main calls of the protesters – remain completely ignored. At present, Sri Lanka is a powder keg, and any move to impermissibly restrict human rights through sweeping emergency powers granted to law enforcement agencies, including the armed forces , will lead to further repression,” Yamini Mishra said.
The emergency regulations lack due process safeguards, such as the right to be informed of the reason for the arrest and the issuance of a receipt of arrest at the time of arrest informing the family of the location where she would be held. Access to a lawyer is subject to conditions. The offenses are broad and can be used to prohibit strike action by unions, give the president the power to ban public processions, restrict access to public spaces, restrict the right to freedom of expression, including the right to information, freedom of movement and peace. Assembly.
In addition, the Regulations provide the authority to use armed force against anyone who fails to comply with orders. The Regulations carry stiff penalties, including life imprisonment for ordinary criminal offences. There is also no access to bail for breaches of the Regulations, except in “exceptional circumstances”. Persons authorized by the commanders of the armed forces are empowered by the Regulations to remove suspects from custody for a period of seven days at a time. Sri Lankan authorities are accused of multiple cases of torture in detention in the past, making these provisions dangerous and raising the possibility of abuse of these powers.
On May 10, the Ministry of Defense issued a notice stating that the armed forces had been ordered to open fire on anyone looting public property or causing damage to others – a decision described as “illegal” by some parliamentarians. The cabinet remains dissolved following the resignation of the prime minister on May 9.
“Fire orders give a license to kill. Violent mobs should be contained, but lethal force should not be the first resort. Any restriction of human rights in times of emergency must be necessary and proportionate to the exigencies of the situation and must not be used as a tool against freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, the right to personal security, freedom and freedom from arbitrary detention. Furthermore, any derogation from human rights guarantees under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a state party, must be officially communicated with a clear explanation of the reasons for it to other states. parties,” Yamini Mishra said.
Sri Lanka has a history of human rights abuses involving the military, including torture in custody in consecutive emergencies in the past. This pattern of human rights violations must end.