Rights group slams Sri Lankan police over anti-Muslim bias

Published 18.06.2019 00:00

Rights groups Monday accused Sri Lankan police of using a U.N. convention on hate speech to crack down on the country's Muslim minority since the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

The Free Media Movement rights group said the police Special Task Force (STF) attempted to arrest a respected journalist for his writing on anti-Muslim riots and Buddhist extremists using the U.N.-backed law. The STF told a magistrate on Friday they were pursuing freelance writer Kusal Perera under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act. "The Free Media Movement strongly condemns the attempts to pursue legal action under the provisions of the ICCPR Act and urges all responsible stakeholders to draw their attention to avoid using the law unfairly," the group said.

The leftist People's Liberation Front (JVP) party said police have arbitrarily detained several Muslim men and women since the Easter Sunday attacks that killed 258 people. After the deadly terrorist attack in Sri Lanka, many Muslims have braced for revenge attacks with mosques, Muslim-owned businesses and homes looted and burned. A mob in Sri Lanka's Puttalam district killed a Muslim man, despite the recent imposition of a nationwide curfew amid increasingly frequent incidents of anti-Muslim violence.

Given the fragile atmosphere in the deeply divided country, many Muslims fear that police may not intervene to protect them or their property. In the face of the systematically organized attacks, the security forces were accused of doing nothing to stop the incitement of violence or to protect targeted communities.

Sri Lanka's Muslims make up about 9 percent of its 21 million people and mostly live in the east and center of the island. Mosques and Muslim-owned properties in the country have been widely attacked, especially by Sinhalese Buddhists. Some Buddhist nationalists have protested against the presence in Sri Lanka of Muslim Rohingya asylum seekers from mostly Buddhist Myanmar, where Buddhist nationalism has also been on the rise.

Muslim communities across the world have suffered numerous hate attacks over the past years with many blaming the surge on anti-Muslim discourse in the media supported by politicians. The Christchurch mosque terror attacks became the latest example of growing far-right terrorism, a well-known global threat. Extremist politics, including extreme nationalist and white supremacist politics that appear to be at the core of the latest terror attack on Muslims in New Zealand, have been part of daily politics for a long time. The rise of global extremism, with the flourishing of the right in Europe and U.S. President Donald Trump and the alt-right in America, has emboldened potential terrorists.

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