Amnesty International (AI) has urged Sri Lankan authorities to rescind the emergency regulations and shooting orders and immediately take steps to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of peaceful protesters.
AI noted that the emergency regulations and shooting orders, currently in effect, provide excessive powers to the Police and Military, further accusing the Government of curbing the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression under the guise of a state of emergency.
“The authorities must also refrain from using the state of emergency as a pretext to curb the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, including at the protest sites such as ‘GotaGoGama’ in the country,” they said.
Speaking on the shooting orders given on Tuesday (10), South Asia Regional Director at AI, Yamini Mishra regarded the orders as the provision for ‘a licence to kill’, adding that violent mobs should be contained, however lethal force must not be the first resort.
“Any restrictions on human rights during 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, right to personal security, liberty and freedom from arbitrary detention. Further, any derogations from human rights guarantees under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a State party, should be formally communicated with a clear explanation of the reasons for them to other State parties,” she said.
Speaking in regard to the unrest that transpired on Monday (9) , as ‘deliberate decision by the Police to allow pro-government groups to physically assault peaceful protesters’, Mishra called for a ‘prompt, thorough, impartial, independent, effective and transparent’ investigation, urging authorities to bring to justice those suspected to be responsible for the attacks. She further said that victims too, should be ensured access to justice and effective remedies.
“The country is headed towards a deepening crisis while accountability and solutions for the economic crisis – key calls by the protesters – go completely unaddressed. Right now, Sri Lanka is a tinderbox, 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,” Mishra said.
In their report, AI condemned Sri Lanka’s history of human rights violations implicating the Military, including custodial torture under consecutive emergency situations in the past, urging that ‘this pattern of violations of human rights must end’.