2022-07-08 UN Human Rights briefing on Sri Lanka by Ravina Shamdasani
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Edited News | OHCHR

UN Human Rights briefing on Sri Lanka by Ravina Shamdasani

The worsening economic situation has led to increasing tensions in the last weeks. Reports have been received of several confrontations between individuals and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations where thousands of desperate members of the public have queued for hours and sometimes days.

“Ahead of what is expected to be a large demonstration in Colombo on Saturday, 9 July, we urge Sri Lankan authorities to show restraint in the policing of assemblies and ensure every necessary effort to prevent violence.”

At the same time, we appeal to the organisers of the protests and their supporters to engage in peaceful means of protest and not to impede essential medical or humanitarian services.”

“We 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.”

Police have used tear gas and water cannon at times in an unnecessary and disproportionate manner. On occasions, armed forces have also fired live ammunition. 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.

“Under applicable international law, gatherings can only be dispersed in exceptional cases, with use of force a last resort where absolutely necessary and proportionate.”

While OHCHR recognizes 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.

“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. They have a right to peacefully protest to demand a better life and an end to economic and social hardship.”

For more information and media requests, please contact For more information and media requests, please contact:  Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / ravina.shamdasani@un.org or Liz Throssell + 41 22 917 9296 / elizabeth.throssell@un.org

 Tag and share - Twitter: @UNHumanRights and Facebook: unitednationshumanrights

  1. Exterior: Alley of flags Palais des Nations
  2. Wide Shot: Briefing room podium
  3. SOUNDBITE (English) – Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR): “Ahead of what is expected to be a large demonstration in Colombo on Saturday, 9 July, we urge Sri Lankan authorities to show restraint in the policing of assemblies and ensure every necessary effort to prevent violence.”
  4. Wide Shot: Briefing room
  5. SOUNDBITE (English) – Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR): At the same time, we appeal to the organisers of the protests and their supporters to engage in peaceful means of protest and not to impede essential medical or humanitarian services.”
  6. Medium Shot: Participants briefing room
  7. SOUNDBITE (English) – Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR): “We 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.”
  8. Cut away: podium
  9. SOUNDBITE (English) – Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR): “Under applicable international law, gatherings can only be dispersed in exceptional cases, with use of force a last resort where absolutely necessary and proportionate.”
  10. Cut away: Participants
  11. SOUNDBITE (English) – Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR): 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.”
  12. Cut away: Camera and podium
  13. SOUNDBITE (English) – Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR): “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. They have a right to peacefully protest to demand a better life and an end to economic and social hardship.”
  14.  

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