Sri Lanka’s authorities should uphold due process rights and ensure that recently detained Muslim figures have proper access to lawyers, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
“Sri Lankan authorities have a responsibility to prosecute those responsible for the horrific Easter Sunday attacks last year, but the arrests should be lawful, and not used to vilify an entire community,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW’s South Asia director.
“The recent arrests of well-known Muslims, combined with biased government actions and rising anti-Muslim hate speech, raise concerns for the broader safety of the Muslim community,” she added.
Hejaaz Hizbullah, a prominent Muslim lawyer, was arrested on April 14 2020 under Sri Lanka’s much criticised Prevention of Terrorism Act, alongside six others, over the alleged involvement in the Easter Sunday attacks a year ago. Despite being detained under the PTA, a detention order was not served, and he has been denied confidential access to a lawyer.
“Concerns for the safety and security of Sri Lanka’s Muslim community after the Easter bombings have increased since the outbreak of Covid-19,” the statement said.
Razeek, another well-known Muslim, who “writes posts advocating harmony between Muslim and Buddhist communities, criticised a new government policy that requires cremating all victims of Covid-19, contrary to Islamic traditions.”
He was arrested on April 9 under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Act for “allegedly advocating hatred leading to incitement to hostility, discrimination, or violence.”
“To promote public safety, it’s important for the authorities to be seen as acting against discrimination, not promoting it,” Ganguly said.
Read HRW’s full statement here.