Sri Lanka: Immediately release peaceful protesters detained under Covid-19 quarantine

by | Jul 10, 2021 | News

Sri Lankan authorities must immediately release protesters who were arbitrarily detained and taken to quarantine, the ICJ said today.

“This misuse of Covid-19 regulations to stifle peaceful protests is contrary to public health principles as well as the right to peaceful assembly,” said Ian Seiderman, ICJ’s Legal and Policy Director. “Sri Lankan authorities must stop their recent practice of arbitrarily arresting protesters under the dubious justification of fighting the pandemic.”

The police arrested 31 persons, including the General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, shortly after they began a protest against a Bill which they say that seeks to “militarize” higher education in Sri Lanka. The arrested persons were produced before the Colombo Magistrate Court under Clause 98 of Gazette 2197/25, which stipulates regulations under the Quarantine and Prevention of Diseases Ordinance.

When the protesters were released on bail, police prevented them from leaving the court premises and they were forcibly taken to quarantine facilities. At the time, the persons were not informed as to where or why they were being taken.

“Contrary to its obligation to protect the right to peaceful protest, the Sri Lankan police have acted in an arbitrary and aggressive manner and prevented the free movement of those who have been released on bail.” said Ian Seiderman.

The rights to freedom of assembly and expression, freedom of movement and prohibitions on arbitrary arrest are guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a party. These rights are also protected under Article 14 of the Sri Lankan Constitution.

“It is deplorable that the police circumvented the decision of the Magistrate and took all persons who were released on bail for compulsory quarantine, which usually extends to 14 days” said Seiderman. “In the absence of a law and court order that mandates such quarantine, this measure taken by the police amounts to unlawful and arbitrary detention,” Seiderman added.

Contact

Osama Motiwala, ICJ Asia-Pacific Communications Officer, t: +66-62-702-6369 e: osama.motiwala(a)icj.org

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