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Sri Lanka

Victims of Sri Lanka riots call for justice

Police and military accused of failing to protect Muslims as UN urges government to enforce non-discriminatory rule of law

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Victims of Sri Lanka riots call for justice

Central Province Chief Minister Sarath Ekanayake and government officials meet victims of mob violence at Mullegama-Abathenna in Kandy. (Photo by Quintus Colombage/

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Human rights defenders and victims of religious violence have called on Sri Lanka's government to bring the perpetrators to justice while accusing the police and military of failing to protect minority Muslims from Buddhist mobs.

The United Nations has also condemned the attacks that have targeted mosques and Muslim-owned shops and houses in Kandy district.

At least two people have died and 465 houses, vehicles and businesses have been destroyed or damaged in religious violence since March 5 as the nation continues to recover from the civil war (1983-2009) that wreaked massive loss and destruction.

A 10-day nationwide state of emergency declared on March 6 remains in place.

Rights lawyer Suren Perera said victims of anti-Muslim riots are not happy with police investigations.

"There should have proper scientific investigations. The riots seem well organized, so the police should gather evidence, especially scientific evidence," said Perera of Kandy Human Rights Office.

"They can find evidence from CCTV footage about how places were burned down. Some people have been arrested but there are still no proper investigations. The government has declared a state of emergency, so the police and army have the power to investigate without hindrance.

"The United Nations can question the government about its responsibility. Minorities are in fear about their future."

Tensions erupted after a Sinhalese lorry driver was killed by a group of Muslim men in Kandy. According to residents, Buddhist mobs from outside the area carried out planned attacks.

Jeffrey Feltman, U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs, said those behind the attacks should be brought to justice.

He urged swift and "full implementation of the government's commitment to bring the perpetrators of the violence and hate speech to justice, to take measures to prevent a recurrence, and to enforce non-discriminatory rule of law," a U.N. statement on March 11 said.

Feltman concluded a three-day visit to Sri Lanka on March 11.


Muslim preacher Mohammed Fazil (left), whose brother Abdul Basith was found dead after an arson attack, stands with his father Samsudeen in front of their burnt house in Pallekele. (Photo by Niranjani Roland/


Mohammed Fazil, a Muslim preacher and the eldest brother of the late Abdul Basith, 28, whose body was discovered inside a shop adjoining his house after violence in Pallekele in Kandy, said all people should respect the dignity of others.

"When the situation was bad in the area, I asked my parents and two brothers to leave the house. But they couldn't do so. The mob reached our house and set fire to it. I called my parents to tell them to leave the house, but they said if they came out they would be killed by the mob," said Fazil.

"When I reached the place, there were more than 500 people with knives and stones. Police and military were there but didn't take action.

"On March 6, I went with my father to see our burnt house and looked for our belongings. Then we discovered my younger brother's remains inside the washroom."

Fazil urged President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to expedite inquiries and bring the perpetrators to justice.

He said all religious leaders should work together to ensure this type of religious violence never happens again.

Sirisena has appointed a three-member commission to investigate the attacks on Muslims.

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