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Lanka’s highest court rejects petitions from Muslims against COVID-19 cremations

Colombo, Dec 1 (PTI) Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed petitions filed by members of the Muslim community against the government’s regulation that makes cremations mandatory for COVID-related deaths.

Some 12 petitioners had challenged the official gazette issued in April, claiming it impinged on the fundamental rights of the island nation’s 9 percent Muslim minority.

When the pandemic broke out in the country, the Ministry of Health revised its guidelines on March 31, ordering cremations only for persons who succumbed to or were suspected to have died of COVID-19.

The guidelines were issued after a Muslim, who tested COVID positive, passed away.

On April 11, the government issued a gazette notification making cremations mandatory for COVID-related deaths.

The Muslim leaders claimed the gazette was violating the World Health Organisation recommendations which do not oppose burials. The WHO guidelines stipulate that victims can be “buried or cremated.” UN Rapporteurs and international rights watchdogs had urged the Sri Lankan government to review the decision and respect the Muslim community’s burial rights.

The court decision came as the country is currently gripped in a second wave of the pandemic. The number of cases and deaths has increased six times since the early October.

According to the Johns Hopkins University data, Sri Lanka has reported 23,987 cases and 118 deaths.

PTI Corr RS AKJ RS

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