The Sri Lankan government should promptly create an independent and transparent inquiry into the deaths of protestors at Weliweriya Aug 1, Human Rights Watch said Saturday.
At least three people were killed and several injured after security forces fired live ammunition at protestors who were demanding access to clean drinking water.
According to news reports, soldiers fired on local residents and Buddhist monks who were demonstrating for clean water on the Colombo-Kandy Road in Weliweriya, Gampaha district, about 25 km from Colombo.
The government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa claims the soldiers reacted in self-defence against protestors who hurled rocks and petrol bombs and shot at them.
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, Human Rights Watch said.
“It’s undisputed that security forces killed three protestors, but the Sri Lankan government’s knee-jerk reaction is to deny possible wrongdoing,” said Human Rights Watch.
“Instead of promoting the military’s version of events, the government should order an independent investigation and prosecute anyone who violated the law.”
Some protestors sought safety in a local church, whose exterior walls were at some point struck by bullets.
The government’s immediate response to the shootings was to defend the army’s actions.
Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said the army was deployed at police request, promised an investigation, but warned: “There are elements resentful of the popularity of the armed forces and President Rajapaksa. We are mindful of their strategy.”