Sri Lanka urged to drop charges against protesters

Amnesty International wants the charges against the protesters arrested near Sri Lanka’s Parliament dropped as they were detained solely for peacefully exercising their human rights.

Responding to the news that atleast 12 peaceful protesters were unlawfully arrested today by Police officers for demonstrating outside the Parliament of Sri Lanka, Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s South Asia Regional Director, said these protesters have the right to demonstrate peacefully outside the Parliament of Sri Lanka and to express themselves and speak with their MPs as the country’s economy crumbles.

“The charges against all the protesters must be dropped as they were detained solely for peacefully exercising their human rights,” Yamini Mishra said.

Mishra said that the Sri Lankan authorities must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and allow people to freely exercise their human rights.

“Any restrictions placed on these rights must be necessary, proportionate and provided by law. Today’s arrests were undoubtedly arbitrary and unlawful,” Mishra said.

After they arrested protesters recently in Mirihana, the Sri Lankan authorities subjected them to ill-treatment in police custody and refused to allow access to legal counsel.

“It is crucial that the authorities do not commit the same rights violations with the protesters arrested today,” Mishra said.

Mishra said that excessive use of force, intimidation and unlawful arrests seem to be a pattern in which the Sri Lankan authorities’ respond to dissent and peaceful assembly.

“These repressive actions clearly do not meet Sri Lanka’s obligations under international human rights law,” Mishra said.

The Police today arrested 12 people near the Parliament of Sri Lanka for allegedly obstructing the vehicles of MPs.

In footage seen by Amnesty International, a small group of protesters can be seen holding up placards that called for MPs to support a motion of no confidence that was tabled in parliament today. The protesters were then forced into a police bus.

The protestors were later released on bail. (Colombo Gazette)