Sri Lanka investigates troops over ‘humiliation’ of Muslims
A policeman gestures to motorists on a street after the government imposed travel restrictions and weekend lockdowns to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Colombo on May 22, 2021. (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP via Getty Images)
SRI LANKA’S military launched an investigation on Sunday (20) after social media posts showed soldiers forcing minority Muslims to kneel on the streets as a punishment for flouting lockdown rules.
Armed troops ordered Muslim civilians to raise their hands in the air while kneeling on a road in the town of Eravur, about 300 km (190 miles) east of the capital Colombo.
Local residents said they considered the order “degrading and humiliating’’, while officials acknowledged that troops had no power to mete out such punishments.
The civilians were on their way to restaurants to buy food when the alleged incident took place.
“An initial military police investigation has already commenced after certain photos went viral depicting an alleged harassment in the Eravur area,” the army said in a statement.
It said the officer in charge had been removed and the soldiers involved ordered to leave the town.
“The army will adopt the strictest disciplinary action against all errant army personnel,” the military added.
Sri Lanka is under a month-long lockdown to contain the third wave of coronavirus infections. The number of deaths from the virus has increased more than fourfold to 2,531 since the start of the wave in mid-April.
The military, which is facing allegations of war crimes in a decades-long Tamil separatist war that ended in 2009, has been deployed to help police and health authorities enforce virus restrictions.
Successive governments have denied that troops killed around 40,000 civilians in the final stages of the separatist war, which claimed more than 100,000 lives between 1972 and 2009.