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British police draw batons on Tamil protestors in London

UK Metropolitan Police officers clashed with hundreds of Tamil protestors today in Kenton North-West London, outside the home of a British Tamil woman who has been on hunger strike for 16 days.

Police officers drew batons and at least one person was arrested as they tried to disperse a peaceful gathering, where supporters came to stand in solidarity with Ambihai K Selvakumar. 

Metropolitan Police officers were caught on video aggressively pushing back against British Tamil protestors along Kenton road, with at least one person injured. The Metropolitan Police's actions today adds to the violence and unjust control on the right to protest just a day after yesterday’s heavily criticised policing at the vigil of Sarah Everard.  In the aftermath of the protests, the Metropolitan Police stated, "Police attended a protest in Kenton road, Harrow on Sunday,14 March. Officers engaged with those present and they subequently dispersed."

Demonstrators followed social distancing measures as they gathered in support for Ambihai K Selvakumar, a director of the International Centre for the Prevention of Genocide (ICPPG), who demanded the UK government help deliver justice for the Tamil genocide.

Selvakumar has refused food and insisted in only drinking water, as she continues to urge the UK government to satisfy at least one of her four demands which includes getting Sri Lanka referred to the International Criminal Court. 

Canadian MP Gary Anandasangaree criticised the force used by the Metropolitan police at the protest today. 

Selvakumar, whose health is deteriorating each day, continues to receive solidarity from politicians and supporters around the world. Her protest has sparked a number of solidarity hunger strikes and protests across the world and in the Tamil homeland, including in BatticaloaAmparai and Jaffna. 

Protests demanding international justice for human rights abuses against Tamils by the Sri Lankan government and calls on the international community to refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court (ICC), were held in Switzerland and France.

UK politicians, such as British Labour MP Sam Tarry, voiced their solidarity. Tarry insisted that “her plight [and] her hunger strike will not go unnoticed” and that “it's not being done in vain”.

Tamil politicians also extended their solidarity, with the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) also echoing the demand for international justice. They urged the British government to “open its doors to justice in good faith” and exhort the rest of the international community to endeavour towards delivering justice for the Tamil people.

Canadian MP Vijay Thanigasalam described her protest as “merely a reflection of the sufferings faced by so many in the Tamil diaspora” as he urged the Canadian government to work with the UK to satisfy her demands.

Australian MPs David Shoebridge and Dr Mehreen Faruqi also issued statements of support for Ambihai Selvakumar’s hunger strike. "No government should be afraid of [an] independent international review of their human rights record. We urge the UK government to listen to Ambihai and respond positively to her demands. We are very concerned about her welfare now," said MP David Shoebridge.

As UK politicians ready themselves to vote on the passing of the upcoming Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, a number of MPs have already insisted they would vote against it, with this latest incident of police violence and intervention against the right to protest, likely to further consolidate their position in rejecting the Bill.

The British police has also received sharp criticism for its renewal of training contracts with Sri Lankan forces which have been implicated in human rights abuses including in cases of sexual violence, enforced disappearances, war crimes against Tamils and engaging in anti-Muslim pogroms.

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