Tag Archives: Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Protesters Awaiting Swearing-In Of New Cabinet Removed Violently

22/07/22

Awaiting the swearing-in of the new Cabinet under newly elected President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lankan military with violent force chased away all the protesters occupying the entrance to the Presidential Secretariat and the main protest site Gotagogama early hours of Friday.

Military and riot police, who entered the protest site armed with clubs and wires, attacked the protesters taking control of the protest site while arresting at least eight, including protest leaders and a lawyer.

Journalists and lawyers were not allowed to enter the area and at least two journalists who were covering the clearing off were attacked by the military.

Strongly condemning the attack and forcible removal of the protesters, the US Ambassador in Colombo Julie Chung tweeted: “Deeply concerned about actions taken against protesters at Galle Face in the middle of the night. We urge restraint by authorities and immediate access to medical attention for those injured,” the US Ambassador tweeted.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), comprising all the lawyers and judges too condemned the government’s action to attack peaceful protesters who occupied the area for more than three months and demanded the exit of former government headed by Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa and now the removal of Ranil Wickremesinghe.

“The BASL strongly and unreservedly condemns the use of force and violence last night by the authorities in attacking protesters at Galle Face in the vicinity of the Presidential Secretariat.

It is apparent that hundreds of military personnel and police had blocked the access roads to Galle Face and prevented the public from entering the area. Attorneys-at-Law who tried to enter the area have been prevented from doing so by forces personnel. The BASL has been informed that at least two Attorneys-at-Law who sought to intervene in their professional capacity had been assaulted by service personnel. Video footage also shows unarmed civilians being assaulted by the security forces,” BASL President Saliya Peiris stated.

The BASL demanded for an immediate halt to the unjustified and disproportionate actions of the Armed Forces targeting civilians and urged President Ranil Wickremesinghe to ensure that he and his government respect the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights of the people.

[…]

Protesters Awaiting Swearing-In Of New Cabinet Removed Violently

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-62260678

https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements/2022/07/comment-un-human-rights-office-spokesperson-jeremy-laurence-raid-sri-lanka

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/07/22/sri-lanka-security-forces-assault-peaceful-protesters

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

UPR submission Sri Lanka

18/07/22

On 14 July 2022, Lawyers for Lawyers submitted a  report for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Sri Lanka. The next UPR of Sri Lanka will take place in January 2023.

The report highlights concerns regarding Sri Lanka’s compliance with its international human rights obligations to guarantee the proper functioning of lawyers, without harassment and hindrance, as set out in the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (Basic Principles) and other instruments.

The first issue that is highlighted concerns the harassment of lawyers in Sri Lanka. As lawyers have defended anti-government protesters, they have become subject to hostile rhetoric. Also, lawyers belonging to minority groups have indicated to be subject to more frequent harassment and intimidation.

Another concern that is mentioned in the submission is the criminal prosecution of lawyers in relation to their work on politically sensitive cases under anti-terrorism laws.

Lastly, the submission highlights problems with access to clients and lawyer-client confidentiality. Sri Lankan lawyers report difficulty in locating their clients after their arrest and not being able to have confidential conversations with their clients in detention.

In light of these serious concerns regarding the situation of lawyers in Sri Lanka, Lawyers for Lawyers has made multiple recommendations to the Sri Lankan government.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/a-voice-of-reason-during-sri-lankas-crisis/article65658282.ece

http://www.slguardian.org/2022/07/sri-lanka-little-lady-lawyer-with-big.html

http://www.lankaenews.com/news/3513/en

https://reliefweb.int/report/sri-lanka/sri-lankas-uprising-forces-out-president-leaves-system-crisis

https://www.arabnews.fr/node/267441/international (FRANCAIS)

Sri Lanka: Submission to the Human Rights Committee

09/06/22

In its upcoming 136th session, the UN Human Rights Committee will review the sixth periodic report submitted by Sri Lanka and will adopt a review to assist Sri Lanka in the implementation of the ICCPR. In this context, Lawyers for Lawyers welcomed the opportunity to contribute to this review by informing the Committee about the situation of lawyers in Sri Lanka.

In this submission, L4L demonstrates that Sri Lanka has failed to comply with its international human rights commitments to guarantee effective access to legal services provided by an independent legal profession as set out in the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, and subsequently, has failed to comply with article 14 of the ICCPR. The submission contains case examples from lawyers who have been persecuted and harassed due to their work on human rights.

L4L highlights three key areas of concern in the report: the harassment of lawyers, the criminal prosecution of lawyers, and issues regarding access to clients in detention and lawyer-client confidentiality. These issues constitute violations of the professional rights and privileges of lawyers in Sri Lanka. As a result, this severely impairs the proper functioning of the rule of law and the adequate protection of rights to which all persons are entitled, including the rights to an effective remedy and a fair trial. In addition, these violations encroach upon other rights that lawyers, just like every citizen, are entitled to, including the right to liberty and security of person in accordance with article 9 of the ICCPR.

Given the vital role of lawyers in the protection of the rule of law and the protection of fundamental rights, L4L recommends the Committee to address the position of lawyers when reviewing the State Party’s implementation of the ICCPR. More specifically, L4L demands the Committee to include the following recommendations in its review to Sri Lanka:

  • Sri Lanka should take measures to prevent the harassment of lawyers and attempts to impede or interfere on improper grounds with their defence of clients, in accordance with Article 14 of the Covenant and articles 16 and 18 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

[…]

https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/interviews/5825-sri-lanka-they-arrest-us-to-stop-us-silence-us-and-instil-fear-in-others

https://www.la-croix.com/Monde/Au-Sri-Lanka-peur-lancinante-arrestations-2022-05-17-1201215496 (FRANCAIS)

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Sri Lanka: Detained rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah granted bail

07/02/22

Attorney-at-law Hejaaz Hizbullah has been granted bail by the Court of Appeal after being detained for over 20 months.

Hizbullah was released on bail today after the Puttalam High Court judge refused to grant bail to him last month.

Refusing bail, she claimed that it was not under her jurisdiction, despite the Attorney General having consented to grant bail.

The judge further informed the defense to request bail from the Court of Appeal on the 9th of February 2022.

The bail application had been filed at the Puttalam High Court after Hizbullah’s lawyer had agreed to a settlement with the other parties in the interest of his client.

On 20th January, the Attorney General’s (AG) Department said it has no objections to releasing Hizbullah on bail subject to conditions.

The AG’s Department informed the Court of Appeal that the bail will be granted only if the defence makes an application for bail at the Puttalam High Court when the case is taken up for hearing today.

Attorney-at-law Hejaaz Hizbullah was arrested in April 2020 under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and has been in remand custody for over 20 months.

An indictment had been served on Hejaaz Hizbullah under the PTA and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act accusing him of making certain statements to students in contravention of these laws.

https://www.hirunews.lk/english/296368

Sri Lanka: Letter on the trial and ongoing detention of Hejaaz Hizbullah

27/01/22

Letter on the trial and ongoing detention of Hejaaz Hizbullah

The case against Sri Lankan human rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah at the Puttalam High Court will be taken up on 28 January 2022. In the run-up to the hearing, Lawyers for Lawyers has sent a letter to the Sri Lankan authorities to express concern about the trial and ongoing detention of Hejaaz Hizbullah, who is the first lawyer to have been detained under Sri Lanka’s flawed Prevention of Terrorism Act.

On 14 April 2020, Mr. Hizbullah, minority rights advocate and legal counsel for many Muslim victims of human rights violations, was arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). No reasons for the arrest were provided to Mr. Hizbullah or his family at the time of the arrest. He has remained in detention ever since. It has been reported that the detention order states 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”. On 3 March 2021, Mr. Hizbullah was officially charged with “inciting communal disharmony under” under the PTA, for “advocating national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence” under the ICCPR Act of 2007 and for conspiracy and abetment charges under the Penal Code.

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

According to our information, on 19 November 2021, the bail hearing of Mr. Hizbullah took place at the Puttalam High Court. During this hearing, the judge stated that the High Court does not have the jurisdiction to grant bail under the PTA, and additionally pointed towards an inconsistency between the PTA and the constitution, which should be dealt with on a higher level and the legislative branch of government.

[…]

https://www.ft.lk/front-page/Attorney-General-consents-to-Hejaaz-Hizbullah-s-bail/44-729423

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-59900733

https://www.ft.lk/front-page/Attorney-General-consents-to-Hejaaz-Hizbullah-s-bail/44-729423

https://www.ft.lk/ft_view__editorial/AG-s-duplicity-in-Hejaaz-s-case/58-729439

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)