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UN calls out Sri Lanka's failure to protect freedom of religion

Dr Ahmed Shaheed visited the country earlier this month by invitation from the government in response to the Easter Sunday terror attacks that took place in April. 

His preliminary findings were published on Monday, in which he highlighted the hostilities faced by Christian and Muslim communities including interruption of worship, property damage, violence and intimidation and the failure of the state to protect religious minorities. 

Dr Shaheed said: "The long-standing traditions of religious harmony and co-existence in Sri Lanka must be reinforced to address the challenges of the modern context of the country.  

"This is characterised by growing politicisation of religion, polarisation of communities through segregated education based on ethno-religious identity, opening up of under-regulated spaces for communication  through privatised electronic media and spread of social media, simmering resentment against perceived majoritarian privilege, growing frustration over capricious law enforcement, and the spread of religious extremism." 

In his recommendations, Dr Shaheed concluded that Sri Lanka should take stronger measures to stop religious hatred by prosecuting perpetrators and implementing systems, "to monitor and respond to hate speech in conformity with international human rights standards." 

Religious freedom charity, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) have expressed their support of the Special Rapporteur's recommendations. 

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said there was "much work to be done to rebuild trust among ethnic groups" in Sri Lanka.  

He continued: "Violence based on hate campaigns against religious minorities and a lack of state intervention to protect such minorities must be addressed urgently if the country is to progress towards reconciliation and prosperity.  

"We urge the government of Sri Lanka to implement the Special Rapporteur's recommendations to ensure that the pathway to transitional justice is set on course." 

The Special Rapporteur's final report on Sri Lanka will be published later this year, and presented to the Human Rights Council in March 2020. 

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