14 August, 2022


Due Process Concerns In Arrests Of Muslims In Sri Lanka Says Human Rights Watch

The arrests of Muslim citizens soon after the Government of Sri Lanka adopted a Covid-19 funeral policy biased against Muslims, raise concerns about the safety of Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority, Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Saturday referring to the arrest of a prominent lawyer and Government critic.

HRW said that the Government should uphold due process rights and ensure that recently detained Muslim figures have proper access to lawyers, referring to the arrest of attorney Hejaaz Hizbullah and others.

“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, 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.”

“On April 14, 2020, the authorities arrested Hejaaz Hizbullah, a prominent lawyer, apparently under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act. He was one of six people, including the brother of a former minister and a customs official, whom police recently detained for their alleged involvement in the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings by an Islamist group, which killed over 250 people. Ramzy Razeek, a retired government official who has a following on Facebook, was arrested on April 9 after decrying religious discrimination in a social media post,” the HRW statement noted.

HRW added that concerns for the safety and security of Sri Lanka’s Muslim community after the Easter bombings have increased since the outbreak of Covid-19. “On April 12, Sri Lankan Muslim organizations wrote to the inspector general of police reporting an upsurge in hate speech, including calls to boycott Muslim businesses and accusations that Muslims are deliberately spreading Covid-19. Senior government figures have made public remarks associating the Muslim community with Covid-19 infection,” the statement said.

The HRW statement pointed out that the police allege that Hizbullah was arrested in connection with the Easter bombings.

“Although he is believed to be detained under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act, no detention order has been served, and he was not taken before a magistrate within the required 72 hours. He has been denied regular access to a lawyer, except for brief meetings in the presence of the police on April 15 and 16,” the statement said.

Read full statement by Human Rights Watch here

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Latest comments

  • 5

    If people are blind to the fact that there is a systemic effort by the Rajapaksa’s, and their racist base, to demonize and discriminate the Muslims, whether it comes to burials, or arresting Muslim professionals, based on no solid proof of any crime being committed, and there is absolutely no due process, that any citizen of this country is entitled to, then they must be intellectually challenged, uninformed, or agreeing to such discriminatory actions by this regime. IS THIS WHY THIS SHAMELESS PRESIDENT MADE HIS FIRST OVERSEAS TRIP AS PRESIDENT TO MODI’S INDIA? Was it to plan, or exchange ideas on how to discriminate the Muslims?
    We know that Indian trolls have suddenly appeared on these website to add their venom and lies against Muslims and their religion, and to spread disinformation here. They are masters of discriminating and attacking Muslims, and HRW has harshly condemned it.
    Is this part of the plan?
    It seems the Rajapaksa’s want Sri Lanka to be the miniature India. There are no two words about it, and his actions even before getting elected, and during his brother’s presidency, was clear. The Muslims have been targeted from years ago, and his election has made it possible for him to continue the reign of terror. We should expect attacks on homes, businesses, bloodshed and tears, in the coming years.

    We should also expect our country, already hit by a pandemic, to suffer economically, setting us back once again.

    We can be sure of one thing – the Rajapaksa’s and their supporters will now attack HRW, and make them the evil foreign forces all out ” to bring the Rajapaksa’s down”. Haven’t we heard this story many times before?

    • 3

      Mr Ashan
      You Muslims think you all are very clever not realising that you are being manipulated and brainwashed by UNP propaganda.
      Moreover in view of the fact that majority of Sinhalese have voted for Rajapaksas shouldn’t you be a bit more diplomatic?
      You are doing a great disservice to your community who are living in pockets scattered across the country.


      • 5

        Talking of being brainwashed and manipulated:

        “As reported by The Sunday Leader, Major General Prasad Samarasinghe, the former military spokesman and director of the Directorate of Media in the army, has been passing highly sensitive information to the US Embassy in Colombo on abductions. Many of those abducted were believed to have been individuals who had fallen foul of the Rajapaksa trio, Mahinda, Basil and Gotabhaya. During her visit to the country, United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Navanetham Pillay expressed her disappointment over “white van” related disappearances reported in Colombo, and other parts of the country, which were not covered by the Commission of Inquiry on Disappearances set up by the government.[37][38][39]

        Investigations on the 2008 abduction of journalist Keith Noyahr resulted in a White Van being discovered in 2017 March from a house at Piliyandala with connections to an Army Major that was believed to have been used for the abduction. Police believes that the van may have been used for other crimes as well as being part of the operation to murder Lasantha Wickrematunge.”
        “Deceased MP Sripathi Sooriyarachchi, assassinated journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge and others had accused Rajapaksa of corruption since 2006.[58][59] In 2015 Interpol provided further evidence to the Sri Lankan government on corrupt military procurements.

        All that and you think he is Mr. WOnderful. Not clever at all.

  • 4

    I have a question.
    What if , immediately upon receiving intelligence from India (two weeks prior) , Zaharan was taken in for questioning?
    Obviously as no blast would have taken place those officers involved in the arrest including the IGP would be now accused of harrassing innocent Muslims in collaboration with India. They would be severely reprimanded by UNP top rank. This is why the responsible officers ignored getting involved is my belief.
    In the last analysis UNP dependence on Muslim votes and associated overly exaggerated propaganda that Rajapaksa party is anti Muslim has done great harm for the ethnic unity, finally leading to this catastrophe.
    We should be free to investigate anyone, YES ANYONE, irrespective of whether he or she is a Muslim, a Lawyer or a Muslim Lawyer or whatever.


  • 3

    We concur.
    “Sri Lankan authorities have a responsibility to prosecute those responsible for the horrific Easter Sunday attacks last year”
    And whenever arrests are make……
    “entire community” shouldn’t “vilify”
    If that “entire community” is “vilifying” that “entire community” is terrorists….

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