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UN urges restraint, calls for dialogue to quell deadly Sri Lanka unrest

UN rights chief says steps to halt violence should comply with global norms, not stifle dissent or hinder peaceful protests

Jeyhun Aliyev   | 11.05.2022
UN urges restraint, calls for dialogue to quell deadly Sri Lanka unrest


The UN has condemned the spiraling violence in Sri Lanka, calling on authorities to prevent further unrest and pursue “meaningful dialogue.”

Eight people, including a parliamentarian, have been killed and over 250 wounded after supporters of the Rajapaksa government triggered violence by attacking peaceful demonstrators, who had been protesting for weeks as the country battles its worst economic crisis in history.

The government granted the military and police emergency powers to arrest people without warrants, followed by an order on Tuesday to “shoot on sight anyone looting public property or causing harm to life.”

“I am deeply troubled by the escalation of violence in Sri Lanka after supporters of the prime minister attacked peaceful protesters in Colombo yesterday, May 9, and the subsequent mob violence against members of the ruling party,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mahinda Rajapaksa’s decision to step down as prime minister has done little to quell the violence, with thousands of protesters defying a nationwide curfew and torching dozens of properties linked to him, his brother President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and their allies.

“Authorities, including military personnel deployed in support of security forces, should exercise restraint in policing the situation and ensure that measures adopted in the context of the state of emergency comply with international human rights norms and are not used to stifle dissent or hinder peaceful protest,” Bachelet said.

She called on authorities to “independently, thoroughly and transparently investigate all attacks,” stressing that they have “a responsibility to ensure the right to life and to exercise due diligence to protect the lives of individuals against violence by private individuals or entities.”

“The severe economic crisis has made daily life a struggle for most Sri Lankans. It has also highlighted grievances, which require national dialogue and deeper structural reforms,” she added.

“I urge the Sri Lankan government to engage in meaningful dialogue with all parts of society to find a pathway forward and address the socioeconomic challenges people, especially vulnerable and marginalized groups, are facing. I call on the government to address the broader political and systemic root causes that have long perpetuated discrimination and undermined human rights.”

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