26 September, 2023


Religious Minorities Must Have Their Final Rites Respected: Amnesty International Calls On Sri Lankan Authorities To Stop Forced Cremation

Sri Lanka’s authorities must respect the right of religious minorities to carry out the final rites of their relatives in accordance with their own traditions unless they can show that restrictions are needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Amnesty International said today.

Two of the early COVID-19-related deaths in Sri Lanka have been those of Muslims who were forcibly cremated on the instructions of the authorities and against the wishes of the deceased’s families.

“At this difficult time, the authorities should be bringing communities together and not deepening divisions between them. Grieving relatives of people who have died because of COVID-19 should be able to bid farewell to their loved ones in the way that they wish, especially where this is permissible under international guidelines,” said Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International.

The World Health Organization’s guidelines for the safe management of a dead body in the context of COVID-19 allows for either burials or cremations and this position was mirrored in the Sri Lanka Ministry of Health guidelines issued on 27 March 2020. On 31 March, the Sri Lankan guidelines were revised to exclusively order cremations for people who die or are suspected to have died as a result of contracting the COVID-19 virus. The government has not provided adequate or reasonable justification for departing from the WHO guidelines, which underlines concerns that the change was not necessary to protect public health.

For Sri Lanka’s Muslim community, which makes up nine per cent of the population, burials are considered to be a required part of the final rites in accordance with Islamic traditions.

The first Muslim death took place on 31 March, in Negombo, a town on Sri Lanka’s western coast, before the guidelines were revised to exclude burials. Despite protests by the relatives of the deceased, community leaders and Muslim politicians, a burial was blocked by the authorities, and a cremation took place instead. The second Muslim death happened on 1 April at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases and the person was cremated a day later despite efforts by the victim’s family and the Muslim community to carry out a burial.

The forced cremations have resurfaced fears that Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority community is being targeted by the authorities. Last year, the authorities did not intervene to stop attacks on Muslim-owned shops and homes by violent mobs and emergency regulations were abused to ban women wearing the face veil, in the aftermath of the  21 April bombings by an Islamist armed group that killed more than 250 people in attacks on three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka.

Given the underlying religious and cultural sensitivities, Amnesty International urges the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure that religious rites and practices are respected as far as possible and in line with international guidelines; and any changes to guidelines involve prior consultation with the affected community.

“COVID-19 does not discriminate between groups. Its victims include people of all faiths and none. As it strikes almost every country in the world, the virus is showing that we are united by our common humanity. The only way to deal with this crisis is as one, united in our support for the health workers on the frontlines and people from all backgrounds who are at risk during the pandemic,” said Biraj Patnaik.

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Latest comments

  • 13

    Water Tables in certain areas in SL is quite near surface and as such cremation is the only safe way. Religion has nothing to do with this.
    AI started, funded by British MI6 to get into Russian era disarmament groups long time ago and it’s still used by foreign intelligence agencies as a 5th column. Now we got 3rd rate Indians managing it .
    Minorities or majorities that does not behave will need to answer to countries law and specially when we have pandemic .

    • 8

      An ignoramus would not know that there was a bigger epidemic than this in 1918. 20 million died, and most were buried, not cremated.
      If all these “experts” are correct, why are we not catching Spanish flu?

      • 2

        The so called CORONA EPIDEMIC is the biggest scam the BIG PHARMA is playing right now. If the Virus is so dangerous, How come the POLICE, the ARMY and the other forces are on the streets? The Medical professionals and other workers and all must be inside hiding behind veils. How come they are not threatened? The WHO is run by the BIG PHARMA and its a big MAFIA run by the big shot JEWS who run big corporations like the BILL GATES, the criminal who is working behind this evil. Not only that, the Super Scientific Sinhala Racist Medical Professionals like the Anil JA-thiwadi-SINGHE is so stupid to give 100% clean bill of health to the treated patients and send them home and guranteeing safe. How did they test the virus? when the test kits are faulty and makes only 305-35% accurate worldwide and they are mostly rejected by the Spain, Netherlands, Turkey, Italy govts. And then the dead bodies on which the virus cannot survive is ALARMED TO BE TOO MUCH DANGEROUS than the virus carriers are sent home as “cured”…. Its comedic on scientific terms. Is there any logic in it??? Jasinghe is JAATHIWAAAADI SINGHE.

        • 3

          The other STUPID thing they do and exposed the scam of CORONA INFECTION is that no RULING ELITE is contracted by it. The media that showed Justin Trudeau, British PM Clown, and the Freemasonic Prince Charles are just hoaxes to prove that anybody can be the victim. Did anybody do a full quarantine to BUCKINHAM PALACE or the homes of the other clowns who said they have infected. LIES! No ruling Elite MAfia will get infected nor DIE by CORONA because, its the very scam they wanted out there to change the world system to control the mass human population. In about a year after all this ended, the truth will emerge as the BIGGEST SCAM the human population was subjected to, like the 9/11. until then the govts., run by the agents of the ZIONIST INC., will go on doing all the stupidity what we are seeing today. And the Sri Lanka Racist stupid Dumb govt., of Gota has just said that the farmers who are producing the food supplies can go out and play as they like. The Corona Virus has a Barcode reader to identify whom to contract and whom to be set FREE… Stupid Bastards!

      • 1

        Cremation is the correct method of disposing the dead body as the virus can live in the dead body for 48 hrs. even now the Catholics have accepted it.

  • 0

    To keep people seeking medical treatment themself both option are open, The head of helth authorative has given the verdict, as to not visiting for the fear of possible cremation which again would, in turn, increase the burden on public health.”

  • 1

    The pile of Death Bodies around Italy , Spain, France, Britain, Swiss and USA which out of G7 countries that Four leading nation are World giant Economics. Such nations has failure to save lives of their own citizens.
    While it has unable contain by ongoing Coronavirus effects to the millions of people of those countries. The Death are tragedies of mishandling by of Coronavirus crisis by Big Nation like USA & UK ! AI kept silent on those key problems in World.!@ What type of Human Rights which that talk about by AI?

    The reckless medical treatment and ill equipments of many Hospitals was cause of Death of thousands citizens of those countries.
    AI is dodging responsibilities and has Not look after at key senatives issues of risk of lives of Citizens of these countries.

    Needless to say mishandling an ill treatment of Citizens are immediate cause death of lives hundred thousands of people of world also violation of right to live by RULERS those nations.

    • 0

      What fucking human rights? LTTE terrorist group even funded to Human Rights Organization. The USA now left the HRO. This Colombo Telegraph also one-sided and terrorists oriented. Are these people who knows Sri Lanka belongs to Sinhalese Aryans.

  • 2

    Is it possible to deprive the final rites of religious minorities?. I believe that final rites of all the communities are equally deprived in the face of Corona virus being a new disease and there could be a big knowledge gap between dos and don’ts.

    The issue is, Sri Lanka is a small Island having very high population density 341 per square Km and very limited space in cemeteries and all burials in Sri lanka are re excavated after sometime to bury new corpses. This might lead to re contaminate the people involved in future .
    As we all know we are highly depending on water wells in Sri Lanka, which might get virus contaminated in case virus get in to the under ground water streams .
    There are areas in Sri Lanka water level is high and in coastal. You can not dig 6 feet due to the Sandy nature of the soil.

    We never know in case if the death toll increases, the contamination on water might go out of control. We already have water contamination issue due to pesticides used for farming.
    Given those facts the best is cremation.
    Even Christians do burials.
    This issue not only for one faith but all the other faiths as well because all have their funeral rituals and customs
    We need look at this beyond the religious practices.
    It’s sad that politician has used this for his political advantage by instigating differences.
    Instead he should have emphasis people to adhere to the Epidemiologists and the government directives to mitigate the epidemic.
    This epidemic is common to all Sri lankans regardless to their religion or race
    Some claim that burial ground of Maligawatta and Jawatta are with enough space however It is not a matter of have space in Maligwatta or Jawatta. Virus could seep into the land and get into water streams.

    All what we can do now is to help the authorities to pass this bad patch and racial difference can be addressed after we get over this.

  • 1

    single clear known fact- covid19virus destroyed at high temperatures. short/long term effects of this hitherto unknown virus following burial is totally unknown. This is no time for experiments to find out if burial is safe. clearly cremation is the 100% safe option and should be done without delay. case closed.AI try to bring in easter sunday incident, ethnicity,/religious hatred etc to the equation to win sympathy/leverage. Those are not relevant in deciding the method of last rites of deceased individuals.. decision must base on medical/science fact not religion/politics/beliefs etc. I agree that media should be kept away from funeral sites except for valid reasons and ethnicity or religion of patients or deceased should not be published.

  • 3

    Author Colombo Telegraph,

    “Sri Lanka’s authorities must respect the right of religious minorities to carry out the final rites of their relatives in accordance with their own traditions unless they can show that restrictions are needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Amnesty International said today.”

    Yes. If the government deems that the COVID-19 ( Wuhan virus) infected bodies are still noninfectious after death, it should be EVIDENCE-BASED. not hypothesis or racism based.

    Unfortunately, it looks like, Para-Sinhala Para-‘Buddhism” racism has played a part here.

    Questions the government should answer.

    Q1. Is the COVID-19 ( Wuhan Virus ) infected body, still ineffective after 2 hours of death?
    A1. Probably, because all available evidence shows that the virus stays active on surface from a few hours to several days, even though the dead person is no longer breathing.

    Q2, Given the above, can the body be still buried, without putting at risk those who are burying the body, provided they have protective equipment?

    A2. Yes, but it is an unnecessary risk for all those living and handling the body, because they have to meet tradition and belief. Their beliefs do not address these extraordinary circumstances.

    Q3. The Risks cremation, to those around. When cremating, the virus can be covered by soot, and protected by heat, airborne, inside smoke particles , and could linger around for a long time in the air around the crematorium and further out. This could be inhaled, and will be deposited in the lings, and get the COVID-19 infection.

    Do those who promote cremation, have an evidence-based answer to the risks/rewards of cremation. compared to burial?

    This evidence-based data should be presented to those who prefer burial over cremation.

    Believers will NOT provide evidence-based data for their beliefs. They all are beliefs, traditions, not science. .


  • 2

    How about AI tell this to Arabia they are still burning , so mind your own business don’t agitate uneducated Muslim minority’s in Sri Lanka they don’t know that not any god will cure Covid 19. . Education and knowledge is lacking for them hopefully they will get the educated to understand there is no god it is what goes around come around

    • 2

      good one , true they are living in stone age and breeding like no tomorrow world cant handle it anymore, once the Saudi oil runs out or prices drop those Muslims will kill each other like in Syria and Afghanistan,

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