Sep. 28 (EUROPA PRESS) –
The NGO Human Right Watch (HRW) has demanded the Government of Sri Lanka to reverse a new law that restricts protests in large areas of Colombo, the most populous city in the country and where the seat of government is located.
This has been requested by the organization in a statement issued this Wednesday, in which they recall that 84 people have been arrested since the law was approved on September 24.
“The sweeping new regulation that severely restricts public protests in Colombo is President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s latest desperate attempt to stop people from protesting,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW’s South Asia director.
“While the country is struggling to deal with a deep economic crisis, the government should make it easier for people’s voices to be heard, not send them to jail when they speak out,” he added.
On 23 September, the Sri Lankan government invoked the Official Secrets Act to designate public streets and government buildings in central Colombo as “high security zones”, where written permission from the Police is required to hold public gatherings. .
According to the regulations, the Police have broad authority to arrest anyone within these zones and only the High Court can grant bail to detainees, as detailed by HRW.
“These broad and severe restrictions threaten the excessive use of force and prolonged detention of people exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and expression,” the NGO said.
Sri Lankans have frequently protested throughout 2022 amid an economic crisis and collapsing living standards, leading to the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in July.
The authorities, for their part, have harshly responded to the protests with excessive or unnecessary use of force, including “less-lethal” weapons such as water cannons.
The Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission, an independent government body, has asserted that the regulation “seriously violates the fundamental rights of the people of this country”, while the Sri Lankan Bar Association has argued that the order “seeks to significantly restrict the freedom of the citizen, without any reasonable or legal basis”.
The Sri Lankan government told diplomats at the United Nations Human Rights Council that it was imposing a moratorium on the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act — which has long been used to facilitate torture and arbitrary detention. –.
Given this, the Human Rights Council is considering adopting a resolution on Sri Lanka to promote accountability for past violations of Human Rights and provide monitoring of the situation of the same.
“The repeated broken promises of the Executive on rights issues and the accelerated repression under President Wickremesinghe show that a firm resolution of the Human Rights Council is crucial to help prevent further violations,” the organization has riveted, urging the inhabitants of the country to ask for peaceful reform.
“The countries of the UN Human Rights Council must do everything possible to help people exercise their basic rights and freedoms,” added HRW.