Written by Amani Nilar
08 Jul, 2022 | 10:44 pm
COLOMBO (News 1st); The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) has urged for Sri Lankan authorities to show restraint in the policing of assemblies and ensure every necessary effort to prevent violence, ahead of what is expected to be a large demonstration in Colombo on Saturday, 9th July.
At the same time, the OHCHR has appealed to the organizers of the protests and their supporters to engage in peaceful means of protest and not to impede essential medical or humanitarian services.
Furthermore, the Human Rights High Commissioner also call on the authorities to give clear instructions to the security forces that human rights defenders and journalists have a right to monitor and report on the demonstrations and therefore should be protected in the exercise of these functions and not obstructed in any way.
Citing incidents of Police using tear gas and water cannon at times in an unnecessary and disproportionate manner, the OHCHR states that on occasions, armed forces have also fired live ammunition.
The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights emphasizes that all Sri Lankans have the right of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and the right to participate in public affairs, which are particularly important in critical phases of the nation’s life.
Accordingly, under applicable international law, gatherings can only be dispersed in exceptional cases, with use of force a last resort where absolutely necessary and proportionate.
The OHCHR states that while they recognize the challenges that the police and armed forces face – including instances of attack on themselves – the Government needs to give strict instructions to the police and armed forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint.
As a general rule, the military should not be used to police assemblies. Where, in exceptional circumstances, members of the military carry out law enforcement functions they are bound by international norms and standards and must remain fully subordinate to civilian authorities and accountable under civilian law.
OHCHR states that the people of Sri Lanka are already suffering enormously and live in continuing uncertainty of how they can meet their basic needs including access to the right to food, health and education, and that they have a right to peacefully protest to demand a better life and an end to economic and social hardship.
The statement repeats the High Commissioner’s call for open and genuine dialogue to address the root causes of the crisis and grievances of the population.
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