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Sri Lanka

UN statement expresses concern about religious intolerance and retaliatory attacks

15 May 2019

A United Nations statement issued on 13 May urges the Sri Lankan government to tackle ongoing religious intolerance and to take steps to stop retaliatory attacks following the Easter Sunday bombings.

Reports indicate that mosques and Muslim-owned businesses have been the prime target of retaliatory violence, particularly in the country’s North Western Province. On Monday 13 May police reported that a 45 year-old Muslim man had been killed by a mob armed with swords who stormed his carpentry workshop.

In a joint statement issued on 13 May, Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, and Karen Smith, UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, said: “It is in the interest of all ethnic and religious groups in Sri Lanka, as well as the Government, the opposition, civil society and the security sector, to work collaboratively in taking appropriate action and immediately stop these hateful attacks.”

Religious groups in the country have also condemned the attacks. The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka said in a statement on 14 May: “In a time when our nation is facing a crisis, we can ill afford such senseless and brutal acts of aggression, which only serve in heightening tensions and increasing polarization between communities. We urge the public, therefore, to refrain from violence and respect the rule of law, ensuring a sense of calmness during this time of difficulty. We call upon those orchestrating such attacks to desist from violence which only serves in plunging our nation further into chaos.”

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “CSW condemns all instances of retaliatory and religiously motivated violence in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka. We call on the government of Sri Lanka to bring an end to the culture of impunity surrounding acts of religious intolerance, and to ensure that all those responsible for the Easter Sunday bombings and subsequent acts of violence are held to account. CSW also calls on the international community to assist Sri Lanka in the combatting of religious intolerance wherever possible.”

The Easter Sunday attacks and subsequent retaliatory violence are the latest indicators of religious intolerance in Sri Lanka, which has been on the rise since 2000, particularly since the end of the civil war in 2009. In 2015, Sri Lanka co-sponsored a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council in which the government pledged to implement a robust transitional justice process and reaffirmed that “all Sri Lankans are entitled to the full enjoyment of their human rights regardless of religion, belief or ethnicity.”

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