UN-backed ICCPr law mis-used to oppress minority women in Sri Lanka: legislator

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is using a UN sponsored law to oppress minority Muslims, slamming pregnant women in jail for half covering their faces, and others for wearing pictures of ship helms, an opposition legislator charged.

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna legislator Bimal Ratnayake said under emergency law and a UN sponsored ICCPR law, minority Muslims were targeted after an extremist Islamic group suicide bombed three churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.

He said a poor woman in rural Sri Lanka was arrested for wearing a dress with a ship’s steering wheel, which also looked similar to Dharma Chakra, an Indian symbol that is used by Buddhists as an icon.

"This poor woman was wearing a ship’s anchor or Dharmachakra, or whatever it was," Ratnayake said.

"What does this poor woman know of ship’s helms?

He said police used the ICCPR law, which was supposedly sponsored by the United Nations to foster communal harmony, to keep women in jail without bail.

Sri Lanka does not have an official religious police.

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"When detaining under emergency law, what does the government use? They use this UN backed non-bailable law," Ratnayake said. "It is not just that she was arrested. I am not saying it was ok to arrest her. But it was worse that she was remanded. And she was remanded using this ICCPR law.

He said in another case a man and his wife were arrested for ‘half covering’ her face.

"She was wearing the traditional dress, they are entitled to wear it (Many Sri Lankan Muslim women wear the hijab which is a scarf)," he said.

"The poor woman was nine months pregnant. I hear now she has just been given bail."

Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena banned the burqa and niqab (full face covers) through gazette that said ears also cannot be covered.

He said two young girls he knew were asked to get down from the bus, and their names were taken down by security forces because they wore scarves. Everyone else was ignored?

"Only those two girls were asked to get down," he said. "What is the meaning of this? If the terrorist wore jeans and dressed in a posh way they can go without a problem?" Ratnayake said the harassment of innocent Muslims will drive them into the arms of extremists by such ignorant acts.

On June 03, Muslim minister in government resigned protesting harassment, and arrest of innocent Muslims.

Political philosophers have pointed out that in many illiberal states in Eastern Europe, which were interventionist and illiberal and laws have been selectively used to target minorities, usually linguistic minorities.

"The members of the linguistic minority are treated like foes or like outlaws. Their sons somehow fail to pass the examinations for civil service jobs," economist and philosopher Ludwig von Mises wrote.

"Protection is denied to their property, persons, and lives when they are attacked by armed gangs of zealous members of the ruling linguistic group.

"They cannot even undertake to defend themselves: the licenses required for the possession of arms are denied to them."

Sri Lanka’s police took into custody dozens of swords kept in Mosques before they were vandalized by Sinhalese nationalists.

The Easter Sunday attacks were carried out by an extremist Muslim group called the National Thowheed Jama’ath and two affiliates, who were preaching an extremist philosophy which has built links with Islamic State and a Syria-based Pan-Islamic group.

Sri Lanka has seen rising Islamic extremist activity, which is alien to the traditional Muslim practice in the country, apparently promoted by Middle East based Wahabists.

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Islamic extremists connected to IS, or the Muslim brotherhood has been fanning extremism also in Muslim majority states with secular leaders. (Colombo/June04/2019-sb)