Police Fire on Protesters in Sri Lanka

Human Rights Watch

The Sri Lankan authorities should promptly and impartially investigate the apparent use of excessive force by police, who fired on protesters demonstrating against rising fuel prices in Rambukkana, a town near Kandy in central Sri Lanka on April 19, 2022. One person was killed and at least 14 wounded. Those responsible for abuses should be disciplined or prosecuted as appropriate. Sri Lanka has a long history of failing to provide justice and redress to victims of human rights violations.

“The use of live ammunition by Sri Lankan police against demonstrators at Rambukkana on April 19 appears to be a flagrant misuse of lethal force,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “People protesting government policies that affect their lives and livelihoods shouldn’t have to fear for their lives.”

On April 18, representatives of the Sri Lankan government met with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to negotiate emergency economic assistance. Such assistance is urgently needed to mitigate growing hardship, especially the needs of the poorest people, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to the IMF in April. Any IMF program should also address issues of corruption and the weakening of the rule of law, which have contributed to the country’s current crisis.

“International law prohibits the use of lethal force by law enforcement officers unless there is an imminent threat to life,” Gossman said. “Sri Lankan authorities should carry out a prompt and transparent investigation into the shootings and take appropriate action against any wrongdoing. Any police use of force in response to violence needs to be targeted and proportionate.”

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