Human rights ambassadors from eight European countries have issued a joint statement, urging the Sri Lankan government to respect human rights defenders such as Hejaaz Hizbullah, a reputed lawyer who stands for human rights.
The statement was issued by human rights ambassadors to the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Finland.
The ambassadors also said they were concerned about the continued incarceration of Hejaaz Hizbullah, a reputed lawyer, since April 2020. They also point out that after ten months in detention, Hizbullah is now facing charges of speech-related offenses under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and other laws.
Hizbullah is a leading advocate for the rights of minority communities in Sri Lanka, including Muslims, and has been a vocal critic of discrimination policies, they said.
The ambassadors further stated that the the role of human rights defenders is crucial in protecting and promoting human rights in a country and that it is the government responsibility to protect human rights defenders, and prevent their persecution.
Hejaaz Hizbullah, a lawyer, was arrested by the CID on 14th April 2020, on allegations of having links with a bomber in connection to the Cinnamon Grand bombing.
He was detained at the CID for about 10 months without being produced in court under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Hejaaz Hizbullah was initially alleged that a terrorist organization called ‘Qatar Charity’ where Hizbullah is having the membership has funded to construct a building in Hizbullah’s ‘Save the Pearls’ and that an illegal institution in Qatar has credited Rs. 13 million to ‘Save the Pearls’ organization to carry out terrorist activities.
The CID also initially said that the Qatar Charity was an organization that funded terrorists. However, it was later revealed that the Qatar Charity was a charity registered with the National Secretariat for Non – Governmental Organizations in Sri Lanka under number FL162614 and had worked with the Government of Sri Lanka on a number of occasions, but neither the lawyer nor the organization he represented had received assistance from that organization.
Despite various allegations, Hizbullah was finally produced to court regarding an incident involving children studying in a madrassa school. Four students have filed a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court through Attorney-at-Law Nuwan Bopage, alleging that the CID pressured them to provide fake testimonies and evidence against Hizbullah.
Attorney-at-Law Hejaaz Hizbullah was produced before the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court on the evening of February 18 on the instructions of the Attorney General. His lawyers told the court that the CID had forcibly obtained statements from a group of children against Hizbullah, but that Hizbullah had been presented to court only on the basis of a contradictory statement by one student.
Hizbullah’s lawyers have previously told the court that no reason had been given for his arrest.
Two children made a confession against Hizbullah before Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake on May 12, 2020. The details of those statements were reported in the media and newspapers on the same evening and the next day. Hizbullah’s lawyers told the court that a confession could not go to the media. The lawyers informed the court that a story created by the CID was influenced by the children and they were made to read it and then it was provided to the media.