UN Human Rights Committee finds against Sri Lankan Supreme Court Determination


The UN Human Rights Committee has found the Sri Lankan Supreme Court’s determination in the case of the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Menzingen to be in violation of Articles 18 and 26 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.

The Menzingen Determination (as it is commonly referred to) was delivered by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka in July 2003, refusing the right of a Roman Catholic order of nuns seeking incorporation under an Act of Parliament.

The UN HR Committee delivered their findings on the 21st of October 2005, stating that, the failure of the State, in this case, to provide a benefit without discrimination based on religious belief amounts to a violation of the right freedom from discrimination on the basis of religious belief as found in Article 26 of the ICCPR.

In the Menzingen determination, the Supreme Court reasoned that the Sri Lanka Constitution does not grant a fundamental right to propagation and that where such right does not exist, the efforts to propagate (Christianity) would ?? impair the very existence of Buddhism?.

The Sri Lankan Supreme Court has previously made two similar determinations with regard to two other Christian ministries; the Sahanaye Doratuwa Prayer Centre and the New Harvest Wine Ministries.

As a signatory to the ICCPR’s optional protocols on enforcement, is bound to accept and honour the determination of the UN HR Commission. This would mean that the State is obliged to provide the Menzingen Sisters an effective remedy and prevent similar violations in the future. Further, the State is expected to inform the Committee of measures it has adopted in this regard, within 90 days.

(Please see attached document for complete text of Human Rights Commissions determination).


Roshini Wickremesinhe

Advocacy & Legal Officer