ECONOMYNEXT – The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) is asking the government to amend the regulations governing the disposal of the remains of Covid 19 victims to allow both burials and cremation.
The current regulations in Sri Lanka allow only cremation although the World Health Organisation guideline allows both forms of laying the remains of victims to rest.
Over 180 countries around the world allow burials and Muslims in Sri Lanka have been pleading with the authorities to allow burial as cremation goes against the tenets of their faith.
In a statement released to the public, the HRCSL says it has received many complaints from all religious groups “on their inability to perform final religious rites after the death of persons in the context of Covid-19.”
The statement said that among the concerns “are the forcible removal of bodies, lack of a standard process for determining whether the deceased person has in fact succumbed to the virus, lack of transparency surrounding the process and doubt as to the mandatory cremation requirement.”
“While the Commission fully recognizes the need to impose restrictions on certain fundamental rights to protect public health at this time, the Commission is mandated to examine whether such restrictions are compatible with the relevant Constitutional provisions and international human rights obligations,” the statement said.
The Commission said that the rules must be amended to
1. Permit burials as well as cremations of bodies of persons who succumb to the Covid-19 virus while adhering to required health guidelines.
2. Mandate’PCR testing results to be issued within 24 hours of a person’s death.
3. Create a sanitary system of storing bodies of those who die at home and stop taking them to the police morgue.
4. Adopt a systematic approach to the management of deaths that is humane and transparent. – A transparent process for delegation of authority by the proper authority. – A process for declaring a person’s cause of death – Permitting families to pay their final respects while adhering to required health guidelines.
5. Ensure stakeholder participation when formulating procedures for the management of deaths in the context of Covid-19 by engaging the communities that may be affected. ‘
The Commission reiterates the human rights position taken thereunder. The Commission further appeals to you to keep in mind the human angle as well.
“We all know, death of a loved one under any circumstance is one of the most difficult experiences for a human being. To add more grief of not sharing the information on the person’s death or imposing a fixed way of managing the mortal remains contradicting the edicts of the person’s religious beliefs is indeed extremely sad,” it added.
The Commission highlights that any restrictions on a fundamental right, even at a time of crisis such as has struck the country at present, must be imposed under strict justifications and with as much space as can be reasonably accommodated for the exercise of the right at issue.
Therefore, we recommend the gazette be amended in the manner outlined above to ensure compatibility with Sri Lankan law and international obligations. (Colombo, November 26, 2020)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana