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Attacks by Sri Lankan government supporters increases 'risk of further deadly violence' says Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned of "further deadly violence and other abuses" following the attacks by pro-government supporters on protesters who were camped out on Galle Face Green demanding the resignation of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. 

In a statement, HRW's South Asia Director, Meenakshi Ganguly, said:

“The attack on peaceful protesters by Sri Lankan government supporters has sparked a dangerous escalation, increasing the risk of further deadly violence and other abuses."

 “It is vitally important for the security forces to fully respect the right to peaceful assembly, and for those responsible for violence to be held to account," she added. 

Yesterday, up to 8 people were killed while over 200 were injured following a day of deadly violence in Sri Lanka, which saw the homes of several parliamentarians torched and mobs roaming across the South. 

The violence began at Galle Face Green after pro-Rajapaksa supporters as gathered at Temple Trees, the official residence of the Sri Lankan prime minister, to listen to Mahinda Rajapaksa deliver an address. Following his speech, the government supporters attacked protesters outside the resident before assaulting the protesters at Galle Face Green who have been demanding the resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who they deem responsible for the island's current economic crisis. 

Read more here: ROUND UP – A day of turmoil and violence in Sri Lanka

Speaking to HRW, a protester Kasumi Ranasinghe Arachchige said that Sri Lankan police "retreated" when the pro-Rajapaksa supporters attacked the protesters on site with "knives and sticks". 

“They [government supporters] started destroying everything,” she said.  “It seemed as if they knew what and who to look for.”

Throughout the day, clashes between pro and anti-government protesters took place

“In recent weeks, thousands of Sri Lankans have peacefully protested against corruption and called for accountable governance and respect for human rights,” Ganguly stated.

“Pro-government supporters have responded to those calls with violence, which those in authority need to stop.”

Read HRW's full statement here

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