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HRW calls for independent inquiry into Weliweriya shootings

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued a press release calling for the government of Sri Lanka to create an 'independent and transparent inquiry' into the shootings at Weliweriya on 1st August.

HRW's South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly said:

“It’s undisputed that security forces killed three protesters, but the Sri Lankan government’s kneejerk reaction is to deny possible wrongdoing,”

“Instead of promoting the military’s version of events, the government should order an independent investigation and prosecute anyone who violated the law.”

Extracts from press release reproduced below:

"The unclear circumstances leading to the deaths and injuries, as well as government statements exonerating the solders involved, highlight the need for an independent inquiry."

"The government’s immediate response to the shootings was to defend the army’s actions. Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said the army was deployed at police request, promised an investigation, but warned that, “There are elements resentful of the popularity of the armed forces and President Rajapaksa. We are mindful of their strategy.” Earlier, insisting that the troops fired in self-defense, Nimal Siripala de Silva, the Leader of the House, said investigators would look into whether there were “external forces or parties, behind that incident, instigating people against the security forces personnel” – which in Sri Lanka carries the connotation that a militant group was involved."

"In the face of mounting public pressure, on August 3 the army announced a commission of inquiry to look into the protests. The National Human Rights Commission also announced an inquiry. Neither of these institutions are in a position to conduct impartial investigations that would be viewed as credible. The army commission is headed by Jagath Dias, a former general whose 57 Division was implicated in war crimes during the final year of Sri Lanka’s 26-year-long armed conflict. The National Human Rights Commission’s independence has in recent years been severely curtailed by the government."