The United Nations (UN) envoy in Sri Lanka has defended the right to hold peaceful demonstrations.
UN Resident Coordinator Hanaa Singer tweeted saying the right of assembly includes the right to hold peaceful demonstrations.
“It helps exercise other rights; freedom of expression & influence public policies. Vital that restrictions imposed as measures against the pandemic don’t go beyond the legitimate protection of public health,” she said.
Singer’s tweet comes after the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) had said that quarantine is a health precaution and should not be used as a punishment or mode of detention.
The BASL wrote to the Director General of Health Services, Dr. Asela Gunawardena and Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandana D. Wickramaratne with regards to the arrests and detention of protestors by the Sri Lanka Police ostensibly for violating Health Regulations relating to COVID-19.
“As such quarantining has necessarily to relate to a person who has contracted the disease or is suspected to have contracted the disease and to no other. Clearly, quarantine is a health precaution and should not be used as a punishment or mode of detention,” the BASL said.
The BASL raised concerns on the excessive force used by the Police in dealing with the protestors.
The Director General of Health Services was urged to ensure the health guidelines are not abused in a manner which has a chilling effect on the freedom to dissent.
The BASL has also urged the IGP to direct the Police to refrain from arresting and detaining persons who are exercising their peaceful right to protest. (Colombo Gazette)