As many as 13 organizations have condemned the Sri Lankan authorities' violent crackdown and increasing reprisals against peaceful protesters in the island country.
The violent crackdown includes arrests, intimidation and the brutal attack on the protest camp in Colombo on July 22, 2022; News Wire reported citing a statement released by the organizations.
"The Sri Lankan authorities must ensure that security forces do not use excessive force and will respect the rights of peaceful protesters at the 'Gotagogama' site, which authorities have ordered to be vacated by 5:00 pm on 5 August 2022," the statement added.
On July 18, then-acting President, Ranil Wickremesinghe declared a state of emergency, granting sweeping powers of arrest and detention to the police and armed forces.
After receiving the supreme power, the peaceful protesters and protest leaders became criminals, freedom of expression was arbitrarily restricted to forbid legitimate political expression, and the prosecution authorities are bringing excessive and disproportionate criminal charges for acts of civil disobedience in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis.
The statement noted that the current economic crisis derives from and aggravates widespread violations of economic, social and cultural rights.
"The Sri Lankan authorities should immediately stop reprisals against anti-government protesters and guarantee people's right to free and peaceful expression of their grievances safely and without fear of arrest or violence."
It further reads that Sri Lanka's allies have repeatedly said to the government to respect human rights, but their message was unheard. Sri Lanka's international partners should now make it absolutely clear that the government needs to uphold its human rights obligations.
"Our organizations have documented attacks against protesters, media outlets, human rights defenders, and religious and civil society organizations following the swearing-in of the new president and cabinet on 21 and 22 July, respectively. Below are details of such incidents," it added.
The organisation urged the Sri Lankan government to end the clampdown on dissent, and ensure that people can exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly safely, without fear of reprisals;
The organisations also asked the Sri Lankan government to conduct a prompt, independent and impartial inquiry into the crackdown that took place on July 22, including allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, with the support of international observers, with a view to establishing responsibility for violations of human rights and bringing those responsible to justice.
"Drop all charges for participation in an 'unlawful assembly' brought against peaceful protesters solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and release unconditionally those facing such charges," the statement added.
It further said that the government had to ensure that journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders have safe access to protest sites, and allow them to carry out their professional duties without fear of reprisals.
"Stop all labelling peaceful protesters as criminals or terrorists" and asked to "lift all travel bans and all other conditions imposed on peaceful protesters solely because of their role in organizing or participating in the protests."
The statement has been signed by Amnesty International, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), CIVICUS, FIDH-International Federation for Human Rights, Franciscans International, Front Line Defenders, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), International Service for Human Rights, Sri Lanka Campaign, The International Working Group on Sri Lanka and World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) . (ANI)