UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday condemned the escalating violence in Sri Lanka amid the severe economic and political crisis and urged the authorities to prevent further unrest.
She urged restraint and meaningful dialogue to address the grievances of the population, after deadly clashes in the worst violence in weeks of protests.
“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,” Bachelet said in a statement.
“I condemn all violence and call on the authorities to independently, thoroughly and transparently investigate all attacks that have occurred. It is crucial to ensure that those found responsible, including those inciting or organizing violence, are held to account.”
The former Chilean president called on the Colombo authorities to protect the right to peaceful assembly.
She said the authorities should exercise restraint and ensure that measures adopted in the state of emergency comply with international human rights norms and are not used to stifle dissent.
Bachelet said the severe economic crisis had made daily life a struggle for most Sri Lankans, and highlighted grievances which needed national dialogue and deeper structural reforms.
People from various ethnicities and religions have come together to demand greater transparency, accountability and participation in democratic life, the UN high commissioner for human rights 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 socio-economic challenges people, especially vulnerable and marginalized groups, are facing,” Bachelet said.
“I call on the government to address the broader political and systemic root causes that have long perpetuated discrimination and undermined human rights.”
She said her office would monitor the situation closely and voiced hope that Sri Lanka would find a peaceful solution to the crisis to alleviate suffering, strengthen democracy and human rights, and prevent further violence.
Supporters of the ruling Rajapaksa family on Monday attacked unarmed protesters who have been demonstrating peacefully for weeks.
Nearly 200 were also wounded Monday as prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned, but that did little to calm public anger.