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Sri Lanka: Amnesty urges authorities to not use military to police protests

Amnesty International today issued an urgent plea the Sri Lankan authorities to stop using armed forces to police protests. The plea follows an order that empowers armed forces to maintain law and order.

Yesterday, thousands of protestors started making their way towards the Prime Minister’s office and the Parliament in Colombo. After a confrontation, protesters breached the gates and took over the Prime Minister's office.

Amnesty staff present at the protest confirmed law enforcement officers fired volleys of teargas against people, including children and journalists. Dozens of protesters were injured, and one was reported dead. Later, more than 80 people were reported to be injured and admitted to hospital following another protest near the Parliament.

At 3pm yesterday Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe announced he had ordered the military to "do whatever is necessary to restore order". Today, the army announced a warning that it will use force to restore law and order in the country.

Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s South Asia Regional Director, said:

“The recent escalation of the authorities’ response to protests by calling in the armed forces, firing at protestors and excessive use of tear gas, which resulted in the death of one person yesterday, is deeply worrying.

“At a time when the country is facing a dire economic crisis and protests are growing in scale, the authorities must make comprehensive efforts to de-escalate the situation and focus resources on ensuring people can access essential goods and services, in line with international human rights law and standards.”

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