Sri Lankan police officers patrol a Muslim neighborhood after the Easter Sunday bombings, Colombo, April 26, 2019.
© 2019 AP Photo
(New York) – Sri Lankan authorities should uphold due process rights and ensure that recently detained Muslim figures have proper access to lawyers, Human Rights Watch said today. The arrests, soon after the government adopted a Covid-19 funeral policy biased against Muslims, raise concerns about the safety of Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority.
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.
“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.”