The Bar Association of Sri Lanka yesterday called upon the IGP, Attorney General and the government to take immediate action to arrest the increasing trend of attacks against racial and religious minorities.
“The state must decisively act against all parties who advocate hatred that constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence, BASL said in a press release signed by its President UR de Silva and its secretary Amal A Randeniya. Full text of the release: The Bar Association of Sri Lanka unequivocally condemns all incidents of hate speech & incitement of violence against, racial and religious communities in Sri Lanka. Incidents of this nature are unacceptable in a democratic society based on the rule of law.
We wish to place before the public and draw their attention to the following provisions of the law Article 12 (1) of the Constitution guarantees to every person equality before law and equal protection,
of the law. Therefore, it is the duty of the state to take effective measures to guarantee the safety and security of all persons and their properties including businesses irrespective of their race or religion.
Chapter XV of the Penal Code creates several offences which seek to arrest hate speech and thereby protect places of religious worship and religious sensitivities of persons. Section 291A and 291B of the Penal Code, reads as follows:
291A. Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person, or makes any gesture in the sight of that person, or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year or with fine, or with both.
2910. Whoever, with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of persons, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
Furthermore the ICCPR Act (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Act No. 56 of 2007) too contains penal provisions to deal with incitement to violence and racial and religious hatred. Section 3 of the ICCPR Act reads as follows:
3. (1) No person shall propagate war or advocate national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.
(2) Every person who –
(a) attempts to commit, (b) aids or abets in the commission of, or (c) threatens to commit, an offence referred to in subsection (1), shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.
(3) A person found guilty of committing an offence under subsection (1) or subsection (2) of this section shall on conviction by the High Court, be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.
(4) An offence under this section shall be cognizable and non-bailable, and no person suspected or accused of such an offence shall be enlarged on bail, except by the High Court in exceptional circumstances
The state must decisively act against all parties who advocate hatred that constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence.
The failure on the part of the state. to apply the law would result in a culture of impunity with mob rule replacing the rule of law. The damage would have an irreparable and disastrous consequence to Sri Lanka particularly to the racial and religious harmony which our nation has cherished for centuries.
Bar Association of Sri Lanka calls upon the IGP to take all security measures to ensure that these attacks against racial and religious communities do not occur and the Hon. Attorney General to expedite the prosecution of all suspects in appropriate circumstances for offences under Chapter XV of the Penal Code and the provisions of the ICCPR Act, irrespective of their social status.
The Bar Association therefore vehemently calls upon the government to take necessary action in terms of the law under the aforesaid provisions to uphold the Rule of Law in the country.