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Thugs attack Sri Lankan Human Rights Day protest

Two hospitalized after masked men descend on families of disappeared persons

Thugs attack Sri Lankan Human Rights Day protest

Family members show pictures of lost relatives on International Human Rights Day reporter, Colombo
Sri Lanka

December 11, 2013

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A group of unidentified men attacked a peaceful demonstration on Tuesday that was staged to mark International Human Rights Day in Trincomalee.

Two protesters were injured during the melee as more than 30 individuals, some wearing masks, descended on 150 protesters near the Trincomalee bus station while police stood by, said Sundaram Mahendran, secretary of the Committee for Investigating Disappearances.

The attackers “accused us of campaigning against the government and then launched an attack,” said Mahendran.

After being forced to halt the demonstration, the group went to the police station to file a complaint, he said.  

“The police also said that we had tried to destroy social harmony,” added Mahendran.

Kathirvelpillai Thiruselvam, a Tamil protester from Trincomalee which is situated on the island's northeastern coast, said that police officers failed to provide security for the demonstration.

“The gang shouted, pulled down our banners and attacked,” said Thiruselvam. 

“A mother cried while holding a photo of her disappeared son and asked for justice, but a man from the gang attacked her too," he said describing the attack.

“We have a right to protest,” he added.

“Police immidiately acted to bring the situation under control and investigations are going on to find the culprits, but nobody has been arrested yet,” said Trincomalee Police Headquarters Inspector Prabath Dayananda.

According to the United Nations, there are at least 5,676 unsolved cases of enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka, most of them dating back to the country’s protracted civil war. 

Last month security personnel prevented families of disappeared Tamils from traveling to Colombo for a human rights event to be held ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Likewise, in March family members of disappeared persons were prevented from traveling to the capital to hand a petition to UN staff at the organization’s headquarters.

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