UN group says Sri Lanka virus cremation rule violates rights

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Colombo, Sri Lanka

A group of U.N experts has criticized Sri Lanka’s requirement that those who die of COVID-19 be cremated, even it goes against a family’s religious beliefs, and warned that decisions based on “discrimination and aggressive nationalism” could incite hatred and violence.
The experts, who are part of the Special Procedures of the U.N Human Rights Council, said in a statement Monday that rule amounts to a human rights violation.

“We deplore the implementation of such public health decisions based on discrimination, aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism amounting to persecution of Muslims and other minorities in the country,” the experts said. “Such hostility against the minorities exacerbates existing prejudices, intercommunal tensions, and religious intolerance, sowing fear and distrust while inciting further hatred and violence.”

Sri Lanka introduced the rule in March, saying there was a risk that bodies with the coronavirus could contaminate the ground water if they were buried. The WHO as well as Sri Lankan medical groups have said that burial of those who died of COVID-19 is safe.—AP

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