Tag Archives: Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Hejaaz Hizbullah held in prolonged pre-trial detention for anti-hate speech work

07/09/21

On 8 July 2021, I wrote a letter with seven other UN Human Rights experts regarding the continued detention of human rights defender Mr. Hejaaz Omer Hizbullah, who has been charged with terrorism- related offences.

Mr. Hejaaz Omer Hizbullah is a prominent lawyer and a human rights defender, and member of the Muslim minority in Sri Lanka. Mr. Hizbullah is a strong advocate against hate speech in the country and has been involved in a number of high- profile cases, including with regard to violence and discrimination towards the Muslim minority in Sri Lanka.

Mr. Hizbullah was the subject of one previous communication sent on 22 June 2020 (LKA 4/2020). In this communication we expressed concern over the arrest and detention of Mr. Hizbullah on 14 April 2020 and his lack of access to legal counsel. Mr. Hizbullah was initially under investigation for his alleged involvement in the Easter Sunday attacks of 2019, before the focus of the investigation was changed to his involvement with the Save the Pearls charity. The Government did not respond.

ALLEGATIONS

On 19 August 2020, the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) filed a report regarding an ongoing investigation into Mr. Hizbullah’s activities. The report allegedly claimed that Mr. Hizbullah had acted as counsel on several occasions for individuals involved in terrorism and unlawful activity, and that he had been collecting data and information on various attacks on Muslims.

As previously communicated, the evidence allegedly incriminating Mr. Hizbullah was related to phone calls he made with a suicide bomber at the Easter Sunday attacks. It has been alleged that Mr. Hizbullah made 14 phone calls to this individual over a period of five years, being his legal representative in civil property dispute cases.

Mr. Hizbullah later faced accusations that he radicalised children at the charity, Save the Pearls. He is the only member of the organisation that has been arrested. Since his arrest, leading figures of the organisation have sworn affidavits attesting to the falsity of rumours that children were radicalised. And The former Head of Counter- Terrorism at the Sate Intelligence Services of Sri Lanka, who is also a member of the organisation, has sworn an affidavit attesting to the fact that the activities of the charity were entirely legitimate, in housing and educating vulnerable children.

During the first nine months of his arrest and detention that took place on 14 April 2020, Mr. Hizbullah was permitted just four visits from his legal counsel, all of which were supervised by the authorities. His lawyers filed a petition to the Court of Appeal, which was granted on 15 December 2020, allowing him to speak with his lawyers confidentially for the first time since his arrest. His access to lawyers is still reportedly limited and he can speak only occasionally to his family over the phone.

On 8 January 2021, at 2pm, Mr. Hizbullah was due to make his first appearance before the Colombo Fort Magistrate. At 1:55pm, Mr. Hizbullah’s lawyer was informed that Mr. Hizbullah had contracted COVID-19 and would be taken to a quarantine centre. No further information was given about Mr.
Hizbullah’s condition or recovery. On 18 January 2021, Mr. Hizbullah was returned to his original cell.

On 18 February 2021, Mr. Hejaaz Hizbullah was produced before the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court. The court decided the extension of his custody until 3 March 2021.

On 3 March 2021, Mr. Hizbullah was charged with “inciting communal disharmony” under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act section 2(1)(h). A few days later, on 9 March 2021, the Government issued a regulation expanding the application of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. According to
the text of the regulation – The Prevention of Terrorism (De- radicalisation from holding violent extremist religious ideology) Regulations No. 1 of 2021 – persons suspected of acts of, or incitement to violence or religious, racial or communal disharmony, would be held in custody and undergo a process of “ rehabilitation ” at an undefined “ Centre ” for a maximum period of two years, instead of having the relevant authorities instituting the established judicial procedures against them.

[…]

Immediate Release of Lawyer and Prisoner of Conscience Hejaaz Hizbullah

https://www.ft.lk/news/UN-Special-Rapporteur-expresses-concern-over-vague-terrorism-charges-brought-against-Hizbullah/56-722893

Seven UN rapporteurs express concern over the detention of Hejaaz Hiszbullah

Sri Lanka: LAWYER DETAINED WITHOUT TRIAL FOR OVER A YEAR

14/07/21

Amnesty International South Asia on Twitter

URGENT ACTION

Hejaaz Hizbullah, a prominent Sri Lankan lawyer, was arrested on 14 April 2020 and has since been detained on trumped-up charges under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Hejaaz Hizbullah has been targeted for his work, and his advocacy for the rights of Muslim minorities in the country. He is a prisoner of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released and all charges against him dropped.


TAKE ACTION: WRITE AN APPEAL IN YOUR OWN WORDS OR USE THIS MODEL LETTER


Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam
Attorney General’s Department
Hulftsdorp Street,
Colombo 12
Sri Lanka
Fax: +94 112 436421
Email: administration@attorneygeneral.gov.lk
secretary@attorneygeneral.gov.lk


Dear Attorney General,


I am deeply concerned about the prolonged detention of Sri Lankan lawyer and minority and civic rights activist Hejaaz Hizbullah. Detained since 14 April 2020 on trumped-up charges under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), no credible evidence of wrongdoing has yet been presented before a court.


It is distressing to learn that, since his arrest, Hejaaz Hizbullah has been repeatedly denied due process safeguards recognized by international law. He has been held in prolonged administrative detention without judicial oversight to monitor his wellbeing, without access to bail. While in police custody he was prevented from accessing his legal counsel in private until an order was made by the Court of Appeal. Even following his indictment in February 2021 and being moved to judicial remand, access to family and counsel has been restricted.

[…]

https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa37/4468/2021/en/

https://www.ft.lk/news/A-call-to-action-against-detention-of-Hejaaz-and-Ahnaf-anti-Muslim-violence-and-attacks-on-democracy/56-720382

https://www.ft.lk/news/Chevening-Alumni-Association-SL-condemns-arbitrary-arrest-and-detention-of-Hejaaz-Hizbullah/56-720256

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/06/10/european-parliament-alarmed-over-sri-lankas-rights-situation

https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2021/07/13/despite-un-concerns-sri-lanka-continues-detain-critics-arrest-protesters-and-entrench-impunity/

China/USA: Chinese Rights Lawyers Incommunicado After Filing Torture Complaint

09/03/21

Chinese Rights Lawyers Incommunicado After Filing Torture Complaint

Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Yu, who was honored by the U.S. as an International Woman of Courage (IWOC) on Monday, remained incommunicado on Tuesday after failing to attend an online award ceremony, amid fears that she and her husband Bao Longjun are being held by state security police.

Repeated calls to Wang’s cell phone and to that of her husband and fellow rights lawyer Bao Longjun rang unanswered.

A friend of Wang’s who asked to remain anonymous said her “disappearance” was likely linked to her involvement in a legal case in the southern province of Guangdong.

“She is working on a case, and the state security police asked her to postpone working on it for a couple of days so they could take her to Wuhan on [enforced] ‘vacation’,” the friend said, adding that the couple haven’t been in contact with family or friends since noon on Sunday.

“I’m a bit worried that the state security police will take advantage of this opportunity, and that they will remain incommunicado even after the sensitive dates have passed,” the friend said.

Wang and Bao had been assisting in the case of Niu Tengyu, who is currently serving a 14-year jail term for allegedly posting a photo of Xi Mingze, daughter of ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) general secretary Xi Jinping, to meme site Zhina Wiki, an act that was later blamed by police on Niu’s Vulgar Wiki.

The lawyers’ “disappearance” comes after they spoke to RFA about detailed allegations of torture made by Niu, relating to his interrogation at the hands of police starting in December 2019.

[…]

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/rights-lawyer-03092021142625.html

https://hk.appledaily.com/news/20210309/JHXTM3OHBFHUZDMV2JAOFJRWO4/

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3124626/concerns-grow-chinese-human-rights-lawyer-wang-yu-after-she

http://www.christianitydaily.com/articles/11111/20210309/women-of-courage-awardee-and-chinese-rights-lawyer-wang-yu-absent-during-the-ceremony-sparking-concern-for-her-wellbeing.htm

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/courage-03082021121342.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wang_Yu_(lawyer)

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/photo/38106749

https://www.voanews.com/east-asia-pacific/voa-news-china/hong-kong-court-orders-47-pro-democracy-activists-held

https://rinj.press/2021-fpmag/march/seven-women-of-afghanistan-awarded-iwoc-awards-posthumously/amp/

Sri Lanka produces long-held prominent rights lawyer in court

18/02/21

Image result for hejaaz hizbullah

Sri Lanka’s prominent human rights lawyer Hejaz Hezbullah, who has been detained for over 10 months for alleged links in the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attack, was on Thursday presented in a court for the first time since his detention, a move his lawyers believe has been taken ahead of a UN session focussing on the country’s human rights record.

The magistrate’s court remanded Hezbullah until March 3 after charging him under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the international covenant on civil and political rights (ICCPR), his lawyers said.

The court appearance comes ahead of next week’s UNHRC sessions where Sri Lanka’s human rights accountability record is to come under focus, they said.

Hezbullah was arrested in April last year for alleged links in the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings carried out by a local jihadi group. The police alleged that Hezbullah had aided and abetted the Easter Sunday bombings.

Nine suicide bombers belonging to Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) linked to ISIS carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and as many luxury hotels on April 21, 2019, killing 258 people, including 11 Indians.

Hezbullah was not given access to his lawyers or the family during the detention. He was also not produced in the court during this time and held without a charge despite international pressure from European Union, Amnesty International and other right.

[…]

https://in.news.yahoo.com/lanka-produces-long-held-prominent-151331993.html

http://www.adaderana.lk/news/71676/hejaaz-hizbullah-and-mohamed-shakeel-remanded

Hejaaz Hizbullah brought to court after 10 months

Hejaaz Hizbullah and due process

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/02/sri-lanka-government-suffocating-dissent-and-obstructing-justice-for-historic-crimes-says-amnesty-report/

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/sri-lanka-government-obstructing-justice-historic-crimes-new-report

https://www.amnesty.org/fr/latest/news/2021/02/sri-lanka-government-suffocating-dissent-and-obstructing-justice-for-historic-crimes-says-amnesty-report/ (FRANCAIS)

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Sri Lanka: Principal of Madrasa School arrested over links to Hejaaz

17/02/21

AG charges Hejaaz Hizbullah under PTA and ICCPR Act

The principal of a Madrasa School has been arrested over links to Attorney-at-Law Hejaaz Hizbullah.

Attorney General Dappula de Livera had earlier directed Inspector General of Police (IGP) C.D Wickremeratne to report facts and produce the Principal of the Madrasa School,  Mohammed Shakeel before the relevant Magistrate’s Court for allegedly abetting Hejaaz Hizbullah on charges under section 2 (1) (h) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and section 3(1) of the ICCPR Act.

Accordingly, the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) arrested Mohammed Shakeel.

Earlier today, the AG directed the IGP to report facts on the case linked to detained human rights activist and Attorney-at-Law Hejaaz Hizbullah.

The AG’s Coordinating Officer State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne told Colombo Gazette that IGP C. D. Wickremeratne was further directed to produce Hizbullah before the relevant Magistrate’s Court.

Hizbullah will be presented in Court on charges filed under Section 2(1) (h) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and Section 3(1) of the International Covenant On Civil And Political Rights (ICCPR) Act.

The human rights lawyer has been held at the Criminal Investigation Department headquarters in Colombo since his arrest on 14 April 2020, with restricted access to his lawyers, family and wife.

Hizbullah was arrested on charges of allegedly “aiding and abetting” one of the bombers involved in the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Many, including the European UnionAmnesty International, and nearly 150 lawyers in Sri Lanka had raised concerns over Hejaaz Hizbullah’s detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act without sufficient evidence.

Last month, Attorney General Dappula de Livera had agreed to grant Hizbullah access to his lawyers.

http://www.adaderana.lk/news/71639/ag-charges-hejaaz-hizbullah-under-pta-and-iccpr-act

http://www.dailymirror.lk/breaking_news/AG-instructs-IGP-to-produce-Hejaaz-Hizbullah-in-court/108-206003

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/02/sri-lanka-government-suffocating-dissent-and-obstructing-justice-for-historic-crimes-says-amnesty-report/

https://www.amnesty.fr/presse/sri-lanka-le-gouvernement-touffe-la-contestation-e (FRANCAIS)

Sri Lanka: Hejaaz Hizbullah granted confidential access to counsel

17/12/20

Hejaaz Hizbullah granted confidential access to counsel

According to information we have received, a Sri Lankan Attorney General has agreed to grant detained human rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah confidential access to his lawyers for the first time since his arrest on 14 April 2020.

Mr. Hizbullah was arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on 14 April 2020 and placed under a detention order by the President of Sri Lanka, purportedly under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). No reasons for the arrest were provided to Mr. Hizbullah or his family at the time of the arrest. It has been reported that the detention order says that Mr. Hizbullah is being investigated for allegedly “aiding and abetting” the Easter Sunday bombers and for engaging in activities deemed “detrimental to the religious harmony among communities”. The PTA permits the Sri Lankan government to detain a suspect without any charges for 18 months.

It has been reported that Mr. Hizbullah’s detention order was renewed on 14 October 2020 and that the listing of his case before a Magistrate on 28 October 2020 was postponed to February, reportedly due to the COVID-19 crisis.

On 10 December 2020, Mr. Hizbullah’s lawyers filed a writ petition before the Court of Appeal seeking release from detention and access to Hizbullah. The lawyers submitted and the court noted that Hizbullah did not have access to his lawyers maintaining confidentially since September. In the Petition, Mr. Hizbullah’s lawyers stated that were given access to their client on only four occassions and that the authorities were present on all occasions around the lawyers and Mr. Hizbullah. During the Appeal Court hearing on 15 December, the Attorney General agreed to grant Mr. Hizbullah confidential access to counsel.

[…]

http://www.adaderana.lk/news/69959/hejaaz-hizbullah-given-access-to-his-lawyers

http://www.dailynews.lk/2020/12/16/law-order/236288/lawyers-allowed-access-detained-attorney

http://www.adaderana.lk/news/69932/lawyers-were-not-denied-access-to-hejaaz-hizbollah-ag-dept

http://www.dailymirror.lk/breaking_news/Hejaaz-Hizbullahs-Lawyer-files-writ-in-CA/108-201580

https://www.facebook.com/Justice4Hejaaz

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Sri Lanka: Deliver justice, truth and reparation to families of the disappeared

27/11/20

https://images.laprovence.com/media/2019/06/05/1559712274_amnesty_international_2008_logo.svg_.png?twic=v1/dpr=2/focus=0x0/cover=740x416

Following the announcement of the release of a list of complaints and information received by the Office on Missing Persons regarding people who were disappeared during Sri Lanka’s internal conflicts, the country’s authorities must now deliver justice, truth and reparation to the families, Amnesty International said today.

On 26 November 2020, the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) released a list of “missing persons” to its offices. The list includes those who are unaccounted for either in connection with the conflict in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, due to civil or political unrest,  have been subject to enforced disappearance, or personnel of the armed forces, or police who have been identified as Missing In Action. The OMP has a mandate to collate data related to “missing persons” obtained by various past processes and to receive any new complaints.

[…]

Threats, harassment and intimidation

In their search for justice, truth and reparation, families of the disappeared and lawyers acting on their behalf continue to face threats and harassment from the authorities and from non-state actors.

Human rights lawyer Kumaravadivel Guruparan was forced from his position as a senior lecturer and head of the University of Jaffna’s Law Department after pressure was brought to bear on the University authorities by the Sri Lankan military. The Adalaylam Centre for Policy Research, a human rights organization founded by Gurupuran, has been subject to multiple visits from officials inquiring about its staff and funding. Guruparan has been representing the families of 24 Tamil youths who have not been seen or heard from since they were taken into military custody in 1996.

Achala Senevirathna, a lawyer, who is appearing in court on behalf of the relatives of 11  youths who were allegedly forcibly disappeared by a group of officers of the Sri Lankan Navy in 2008-2009, has been subject to a torrent of threatening abuse online and offline. Among the abuse Senevirathna has been subject to, she has received threatening phone calls and text messages from the accused naval officers and people believed to be close to them, using obscene language. Her Facebook profile has been targeted by people distorting her photos, and making threats of rape and murder. She says these threats have had impacts on her personal life and her career. Despite her complaining about these threats, the authorities have taken no action so far.

[…]

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/11/sri-lanka-deliver-justice-truth-and-reparation-to-families-of-the-disappeared/

https://www.tamilguardian.com/content/jaffna-university-lecturer-dr-guruparan-compelled-resign-sri-lankan-militarys-benefit-former

https://www.tamilguardian.com/content/tamils-and-muslims-must-recognise-we-are-fight-together-kumaravadivel-guruparan

https://www.tamilguardian.com/content/solidarity-guruparan

https://english.theleader.lk/news/749-female-human-rights-lawyer-facing-continuous-death-threats

Sri Lanka: Seven Months On the Bar is Silent About Hejaaz

24/11/20

Justice for Hejaaz: The bell tolls, but the Bar is silent – Gehan  Gunatilleke | Sri Lanka Brief

Seven months have passed since the arrest and detention of human rights lawyer, Hejaaz Hizbullah. When he was taken into custody on 14 April, his friends and family, and some within his fraternity, decried the obvious injustice. They were quickly told to quieten down and ‘let the justice system do its work’. They were told not to interfere with the investigation. They were told to be patient, as the truth would eventually emerge, and perhaps set Hejaaz free.

Seven months have passed. The investigations continue with no indictment in sight. If law enforcement authorities and prosecutors actually had a case against Hejaaz, wouldn’t they have framed charges by now? Should we let the authorities investigate in perpetuity?

Seven months have passed, and the media circus has dissipated, making clowns out of all those who prejudged Hejaaz’s guilt. The media callously aired so-called ‘damning’ evidence, and set out to make a monster out of Hejaaz. They have only made him a martyr, as none of the evidence appears to be credible.

Seven months have passed. Hejaaz is yet to be produced before a judge. A Magistrate has repeatedly expressed concerns over the handling of the investigations. But he has no power under our draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act to insist that Hejaaz be produced in court. So Hejaaz’s virtually incommunicado detention continues without any judicial supervision.

Hejaaz’s case is no outlier. It reflects both the danger faced by lawyers who dare do the work of justice, and the indifference of many others who care not to question injustice. So it is not just Hejaaz who is on trial right now. The bell tolls for the entire profession. Those who walk in Hejaaz’s footsteps will feel the deterring weight of the sheer absurdity of his predicament; they will be tempted to abandon their path because they know they could be next. If the injustice against Hejaaz is left unaddressed, it sets a new precedent for all lawyers: they now confront the risk of being punished for doing their job, and face the danger of being abandoned by their colleagues.

[…]

http://www.ft.lk/columns/Justice-for-Hejaaz-The-bell-tolls-but-the-Bar-is-silent/4-709300

https://www.facebook.com/Justice4Hejaaz

Sri Lanka: TGTE Launches Petition Calling for UN Response to Recent Attack on Tamil Lawyers in Sri Lanka

October 9, 2019

In light of the police-facilitated mob violence perpetrated with impunity against Tamil lawyers outside the Mullaitivu Magistrate court in North-East Sri Lanka on Monday, September 23, 2019, as well as the state-sanctioned and police-facilitated open public defiance of a court injunction that precipitated the assault, Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE)has launched a petition calling on the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Mr. Diego García-Sayán, to secure a country visit to Sri Lanka without delay in order to investigate, document and report on the historic and ongoing gross violations of the independence of Tamil judges and security of Tamil lawyers, in the island of Sri Lanka.

“The events of September 23rd were not an isolated incident but rather only the most recent episode in Sri Lanka’s long history of blatant disregard for the rule of law, the separation of powers, and human rights when it serves the Buddhist Sinhalese ethnocratic state agenda,” said TGTE Prime Minister Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran. “These events have provoked moral anger among lawyers and human rights activists worldwide.”

“We cannot let these actions go unanswered. An attack on an Eelam Tamil lawyer is a threat to all Eelam Tamil lawyers to perform their legal obligations. The international community, especially institutions that consider themselves human rights guardians, cannot afford to turn a blind eye in this matter. Silence in the wake of events like these is what allows impunity to reign.”, Mr. Rudrakumaran added.

The specific court injunction defied was one prohibiting the administration of Buddhist funeral rites on the grounds of a Hindu temple in Mullaitivu, part of the traditional Tamil Homeland. The Sri Lankan police sent to the area did not take any action to prevent the criminally-intended group of Buddhist adherents from successfully violating the injunction. Instead, Sri Lankan police escorted the group as it carried out the prohibited funeral rites and also barred Tamils from entering the area. Then, when members of the group harassed and physically attacked the Tamil lawyers present who had worked to secure the injunction and who attempted to question why the cremation was proceeding despite the legal order, the police merely watched. It is elucidating that, as reported in the Tamil Guardian, one monk “taunted the Tamil objectors by stating that Buddhist monks held supremacy in Sri Lanka.”

https://www.einnews.com/pr_news/498685739/tgte-launches-petition-calling-for-un-response-to-recent-attack-on-tamil-lawyers-in-sri-lanka

https://www.tamilguardian.com/content/lawyers-continue-strike-across-north-east-after-assaults-buddhist-monks

http://newsonair.nic.in/Main-News-Details.aspx?id=371997

Sri Lanka: Assassinated human rights lawyer Kumar Ponnambalam remembered 18 years on

January 5, 2018

Human rights lawyer and former leader of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC), Kumar Ponnambalam, was remembered today on the 18th anniversary of his death.

Mr Ponnambalam was shot dead by unidentified gunman on January 5th, 2000, whilst in his car on Ramakrishna Lane, in the Tamil area of Colombo, Wellawatte.

He was renowned for his pro bono work in defending Tamil and Sinhala youths detained under Sri Lanka’s draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act and had filed reports in important human rights cases that incriminated the Chandrika government, including the gang rape and murder of the Tamil girl, Krishanthi Kumaraswamy and mass graves in Chemmani.

His murder came a few days after he had written an open letter to then president Chandrika, condemning her anti-Tamil policies.

He was remembered today by the Tamil National People’s Front at the party’s heaquarters in Kantharmadam, Jaffna.

http://www.tamilguardian.com/content/assassinated-human-rights-lawyer-kumar-ponnambalam-remembered-18-years

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumar_Ponnambalam