The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute has called upon Sri Lanka’s Minister of Justice, Nimal Siripala de Silva, to ensure that the government due process in handlining the case of Former state counsel and prominent lawyer, Heejaz Hizbullah.
Hizbullah was detained on 14 April, along with five others, under the much-criticised Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). He was arrested under alleged involvement in the 2019 Easter Sunday Bombings. Despite being detained, a detention order was not served, and he was denied confidential access to a lawyer.
Hizbullah was one of a few high-profile cases which included a challenge to the dissolution of parliament in 2018. In IBAHRI’s statement, they maintain the importance of independent lawyers and the need to respect the right to exercise freedom of expression so as to hold the government accountable. The IBAHRI has noted that Sri Lanka has a “longstanding official hostility’ towards members of the legal profession who express legitimate criticism of the government.
The IBAHRI further urged the government to allow Hizbullah regular access to his legal counsel and respect legal professional privilege.
HRW South Asia Director, Meenakshi Ganguly, further expressed concerns regarding this arrest stating:
“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,”