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Sri Lankan soldiers suspended for forcing locals to kneel for ‘violating travel ban’ in Eravur

Photo credit: Twitter - @kavinthans

Sri Lankan army commander and accused war criminal Shavendra Silva has suspended several Sri Lankan soldiers after they were caught humiliating locals in Eravur by forcing them to kneel down and raise their hands last week.

The Sri Lankan army ‘launched the probe’ after viral images circulated on social media showing rows of men kneeling before soldiers for allegedly violating Sri Lanka’s current lockdown restrictions in Eravur.

“The Sri Lanka Army after an alleged improper conduct of a few Army personnel in Eravur area was brought to the notice, immediately removed the Army personnel involved from their duties,” said a statement by Sri Lanka’s army on Sunday.

The army stated that the officer-in-charge was also removed “with immediate effect”.

Photo credit: Twitter - @kavinthans

The incident on Saturday at the Muslim-majority Eravur area, involved soldiers rounding up a group of civilians in one corner of a street in Eravur. This adds to concerns over islamophobic “targeted attacks” in Sri Lanka and the increasing amount of harassment by the Sri Lankan military, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mohammed Ismail Marzook, 44, told The Hindu, “I just went on my bicycle to buy my diabetes medicine at our local pharmacy, and a little bit of rice nearby. I even showed the empty box of my pills, but the soldiers forced me to kneel down right there along with some others, with my hands raised.”

“I explained to them in Sinhala that I am a patient, and that I stepped out only to buy medicines, which is allowed. But they wouldn’t listen, and kept beating me, like they would cattle.”

TNA’s Batticaloa MP, Shanakiyan Rasamanickam expressed doubts for progress, arguing the Army was “forced to acknowledge” the incident because it was widely shared.

“If they can investigate the matter no now, why can’t they do the same in regard to the Tamils’ long-pending concerns about alleged crimes against humanity by the army at the end of the war. Do they mean to say not even one army member could have committed any wrong?,” he asked

Former commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Ambika Satkunanathan, described the military’s “punishment meted out by the military can constitute degrading treatment or punishment under Article 11 of Sri Lanka’s Constitution and also an offence under the Convention Against Torture Act.”

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