The United Nations panel of human rights experts has called on the Sri Lankan government to end its policy of forcible cremation of COVID-19 victims. They said in a statement that it was against the beliefs of Muslims and other minorities in the country and could lead to prejudice, intolerance and violence.
It states that treating cremation as the only option for handling bodies that have been confirmed or suspected of being infected with COVID-19 is a human rights violation.
There is no medical or scientific evidence in Sri Lanka or other countries that burying corpses increases the risk of the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19 the organization said.
As of January 21, 2021, 274 COVID-19 related deaths have been reported in Sri Lanka and a significant number belong to the Muslim minority.
The decision to make cremation compulsory in accordance with the Fourth Amendment to the Temporary Clinical Training Guidelines on Patients with Suspected and Confirmed Conflict of COVID-19, issued on March 31, 2020, was advised by experts including leading epidemiologists who claimed that drinking water on the ground could be contaminated.
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reiterated that there is no evidence that cremation prevents the spread of the disease.
The United Nations acknowledges that the epidemic poses serious challenges.However, the panel emphasized that steps should be taken to show respect for the dead, their cultural and religious traditions, and their relatives.