Asia - Pacific

UN rights body urges freedom of religion in Sri Lanka

Human Rights Council expresses 'serious concern' at erosion of independence of judiciary in Sri Lanka

Peter Kenny   | 23.03.2021
UN rights body urges freedom of religion in Sri Lanka


The UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday criticized Sri Lanka's treatment of ethnic and religious monitories and mandated the office of rights chief Michelle Bachelet to collect information on where international human rights law is violated.

The resolution was proposed by the UK, the EU, and other countries and was passed with 22 votes in favor, 11 against, and 14 abstentions.

It acknowledged the holding of free and transparent democratic elections in November 2019 and August 2020.

The resolution expressed "serious concern at the trends emerging over the past year," representing a clear early warning sign of a deteriorating situation of human rights in Sri Lanka.

These include "the accelerating militarization of civilian government functions; the erosion of the independence of the judiciary and key institutions responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights; ongoing impunity and political obstruction of accountability for crimes and human rights violations in 'emblematic cases.'"

The resolution urged the Sri Lankan government “to foster freedom of religion or belief and pluralism by promoting the ability of all religious communities to manifest their religion, and to contribute openly and on an equal footing to society."

Julian Braithwaite, the UK ambassador to the UN in Geneva, leading the resolution said it "reflects the high commissioners finding that the human rights situation is deteriorating, with particular concerns for human rights defenders and civil society space, and members of different ethnic and religious communities including Tamils, Muslims, and Christians."

China, Russia, Cuba, and the Philippines were among 11 nations that opposed the resolution, while India and Japan were among 14 countries that abstained from voting.

Chen Xu, Chinese ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said the resolution disregards efforts and achievements by Sri Lanka "to promote and protect human rights" and "ignores the wishes of the Sri Lankan people and interferes in Sri Lanka's internal affairs under the guise of human rights."

On Feb. 27, Turkey had welcomed Sri Lankan authorities' decision to bury those who died from the coronavirus in line with Muslim beliefs after criticism from human rights experts.​​​​​​​

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