The rights body of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Friday urged Sri Lanka to fulfill its international human rights obligations, calling majoritarian rhetoric and discriminatory measures in the country “clear manifestations of Islamophobia.”
The Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) in a statement condemned the Sri Lankan Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and its recently enacted regulation titled “de-radicalization from holding violent extremist religious ideology”.
“[These] are contrary to the ideals of pluralism, counterproductive to social cohesion,” said the IPHRC.
The regulation allows the creation of “reintegration centers” to “arbitrarily detain Muslims and subject them to torture and other human rights violations without any legal oversight with impunity,” it underlined.
The statement said these “tragic developments” are further “compounded by reports of newly imposed Burqa ban, under the pretext of counter-terrorism measures, which squarely violates minorities’ right to freedom of religion.”
Referring to a report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the IPHRC called on Sri Lankan authorities to immediately repeal the draconian PTA and impartially investigate reported incidents of human rights violations while allowing access to justice, and a free trial to all its minorities.
It said the OHCHR report highlighted the prevalence of “endemic patterns of custodial deaths, torture, and other ill-treatment, and extrajudicial killings with impunity” and that the COVID-19 pandemic “exacerbated the prevailing marginalization and discrimination suffered by the Muslim community.”
It added that discriminatory measures like the Burqa ban would “cement negative stereotypes against Muslim women, disproportionately restrict their freedom to manifest their religion, cause intersectional discrimination and greater marginalization as well as stoke undue hostility/physical violence because of their clothing.”
The human rights body asked Sri Lanka to protect the rights of its Muslim minority to practice their religion, free from any coercion or discrimination.
It also stressed Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority to “exhaust all available domestic remedies including domestic courts for redress of grievances and repeal of discriminatory laws,” besides urging the international community to engage with Sri Lankan authorities “to seek redress for the aggrieved minority including by punishing those found guilty as per international human rights law.”