Image Courtesy: Muslim Council of Britain
Municipal workers carry the coffin of an unclaimed body of a Covid-19 coronavirus victim to a crematorium in Colombo on December 10, 2020. (Photo by Lakruwan WANNIARACHCHI / AFP)

TDN Desk

Muslim Council of Britain – the largest democratic umbrella body of the Muslim community in UK – has called on the United Nations (UN) to halt forced cremations of Muslim dead bodies in Sri Lanka.

On Monday, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has submitted a complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) given the Sri Lankan government’s ongoing policy on forced cremations.

Expressing concern over the issue, Zara Mohammed – the newly elected Secretary General of MCB – said, “We are very concerned that the Sri Lankan government has ignored its own committee’s advice, which allows for the safe burial of the deceased.

“The Sri Lankan Government policy is unprecedented; no other state has carried out such unjust and discriminatory measures. We very much hope that the Sri Lankan government will change its policy in line with the World Health Organisation advice.”

“The MCB urgently requests that the UNHRC immediately order the suspension of the forced cremations policy,” the press statement issued by MCB reads further.

Tayab Ali, Partner at Bindmans LLP who represents the MCB and the Applicants said, “The forced cremations of Muslim bodies in Sri Lanka are a serious violation of the religious freedom of a minority group. It is a violation of international law to delay returning a family member’s body for burial in a timely way unless there is good reason to do so. In this case the Sri Lankan authorities have departed from the WHO’s recommendation for the safe management of a dead body during the coronavirus pandemic without any justification.

“Our clients were already suffering from the distress of losing a family member to Covid. It is truly heartless for the Sri Lankan government to add to that distress by unnecessarily forcing the bodies of loved ones to be cremated.

“We hope that the United Nations Human Rights Committee will take immediate action on receipt of this complaint by granting interim measures to halt these cremations,” added Ali.

Last year, in 2020 Sri Lanka government amended a law to make cremation compulsory for those dying from the from the novel coronavirus despite strong opposition from the minority MUslim community in the county.

The Quarantine and Prevention of Diseases Ordinance (Chapter 222) has been amended by a gazette issued by Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi to make cremation mandatory.