Friday, 24 April 2020

SRI LANKA: ARREST AND DETENTION OF ATTORNEY-AT-LAW HEJAAZ HIZBULLAH IS ARBITRARY & INTERFERENCE OF HIS LEGAL PRACTICE – JOINT STATEMENT 22/04/2020 BY SRI LANKA BRIEF

tatement on the Arrest and Detention of Attorney-at-law Hejaaz Hizbullah.

We are writing with deep concern about aspects of the arrest and detention of attorney-at-law Hejaaz Hizbullah. According to media reports on the habeas corpus application filed by Mr. Hizbullah’s father Naina Hizbullah, Mr. Hizbullah had received a phone call, purportedly, from officers of the Ministry of Health (MOH) who had inquired if he had been at a certain location and requested him to remain at home as officials of MOH would visit him. Instead of officials from the MOH, officers from the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) arrived at his home, handcuffed him and interrogated him. Following that they are said to have taken him to his Law Chamber and accessed two case files as well as searched and read other material related to his legal practice. Thereafter, Mr. Hizbullah’s wife, who is not proficient in Sinhala, was reportedly ordered to sign a statement in Sinhala. Following that Mr. Hizbullah was taken to the fourth floor of the CID, where reportedly Mr. Hizbullah was arrested and is still detained. Supposedly, to date, Mr. Hizbullah has not been informed of the reason for the arrest nor has he been granted access to his lawyers except in restricted circumstances for about fifteen minutes and in the presence of a CID officer.
While acknowledging the need to conduct thorough investigations into any alleged offence, in this instance, prima facie it appears that the detainee has been denied due process rights. According to facts in the public domain, the CID officers did not inform him of the reason for the interrogation or thereafter the arrest. Although the authorities failed to inform Mr. Hizbullah, his family or his lawyer of the reason for the arrest, they convened a press conference on 15 April 2020 at which they stated he was arrested in relation to the Easter attacks of April 2019.
We note that to date, to the knowledge of his family or lawyer, Mr. Hizbullah has not yet been produced before a magistrate, to which he is entitled per the Constitution of Sri Lanka and human rights norms, and it is unclear under which law Mr. Hizbullah is being detained. Media reports suggest that Mr. Hizbullah is being detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. If this is the case, he should have been produced before a magistrate before the conclusion of seventy-two hours or a detention order should have been issued. In the case of Mr. Hizbullah neither appears to have taken place, which could render the arrest and detention, and hence constitute a violation of Article 13 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka.
The fact that Mr. Hizbullah has not been allowed to meet his lawyers without the presence of CID officers despite a written request submitted on the 15th April, is cause for grave concern as the right to legal representation is an important element of the right to due process, to which every person is entitled according to Article 13 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka. Unimpeded access to legal counsel is also a statutorily guaranteed right to any person arrested in Sri Lanka.
The most troubling aspect of the process of arrest is that CID officers had allegedly accessed two case files of Mr. Hizbullah, which is a severe impingement of attorney- client privilege, as well as of Mr. Hizbullah’s right to practice his profession freely. Such blatant disregard of the due process rights of an officer of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka and what appears to be his right to practice his profession freely, have a chilling effect on all legal professionals in Sri Lanka, as it creates fear they will be penalized for meeting with persons who are alleged to have committed offences as part of performing their duties as attorneys- at- law.
We call upon the authorities to respect Mr. Hizbullah’s due process rights, in particular to grant immediate access to his lawyers to receive instructions, provide reasons for his arrest as well as evidence that the arrest is not arbitrary and produce him before a magistrate immediately.
We request the Hon. Chief Justice to take note of the apparent interference by law enforcement authorities in the right of an officer of the Supreme Court to practice his profession freely and make necessary interventions to ensure attorneys-at-law are able to perform their functions without fear.
  1. Dr. Asha. L. Abyesekera
  2. Nida Admani
  3. Hilmy Ahmed
  4. Dr. Indi Akurugoda
  5. Dr. Harini Amarasuriya
  6. Faaiz Ameer -AAL
  7. Prof. Antony Anghie
  8. Swathika Arulingam -AAL
  9. Mario Arulthas
  10. Rev. Duleep De Chickera
  11. Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy
  12. Rev. Fr. Jeyabalan Croos
  13. Dulan Dasanayake- AAL
  14. Marisa De Silva
  15. Tharanga De Silva
  16. Prof. Neil DeVotta
  17. Prof. Priyan Dias
  18. Dinushika Dissanayake
  19. Yalini Dream
  20. S.C.C. Elankovan
  21. Farih Fauz
  22. Saadika Fauz
  23. K.B.J. Fernando
  24. Dr. Priyanthi Fernando
  25. Rev. Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando
  26. Ruki Fernando
  27. Tamara Fernando
  28. Rev. Fr. Terence Fernando
  29. Rev. Fr. Oswald Firth
  30. Anne-Marie Fonseka
  31. Bhavani Fonseka
  32. Nilshan Fonseka
  33. V.V. Ganeshananthan
  34. Ranitha Gnanarajah -AAL
  35. Dr. Mario Gomez
  36. Shyamala Gomez
  37. Prof. Savitri Goonesekere
  38. B. Gowthaman -AAL
  39. Dr. Carmena Gunaratne
  40. Gehan Gunatilleke
  41. Prof. Arjun Guneratne
  42. Dr. Kumaravadivel Guruparan -AAL
  43. Jesmin Hameed
  44. Anberiya Hanifa
  45. Dr. Farzana Haniffa
  46. Shafinaz Hassendeen
  47. Sanjana Hattotuwa
  48. Pulasthi Hewamanna- AAL
  49. Ameena Hussein
  50. Zainab Ibrahim
  51. Rev. Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda
  52. Deekshya Illangasinghe
  53. Muhamed Saiful Islam
  54. Prof. Qadri Ismail
  55. Nooru Kamaala Jainulabdeen
  56. Dr. Janaki Jayawardena
  57. Dr. Ahilan Kadirgamar
  58. Dr. Sakuntala Kadirgamar
  59. Nirupa Karunaratne
  60. Prof. Wickramabahu Karunaratne
  61. Chulani Kodikara
  62. Herman Kumara
  63. Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala
  64. Rev. Fr. Nandana Manatunga
  65. Dr. Yousuf Marikkar
  66. Dr. Farah Mihlar
  67. Shiranee Mills
  68. Muhamed Mujahid
  69. Nagulan Nesiah
  70. Prof. Vasuki Nesiah
  71. Sr. Nichola
  72. Fathima Shifana Niyas
  73. Asoka Obeysekere
  74. Rev. Dr Jayasiri Peiris
  75. Jehan Perera
  76. Sachini Perera
  77. Deborah Philip
  78. Maithreyi Rajasingham -AAL
  79. Sanjayan Rajasingham
  80. Anupama Ranawana
  81. Prabodha Rathnayake- AAL
  82. M.D.M. Rizvi
  83. Mohammed Roshan
  84. Thyagi Ruwanpathirana
  85. Azlam Saleem
  86. Dr. Athulasiri Samarakoon
  87. Dr. Dinesha Samararatne – AAL
  88. Dr. Gameela Samarasinghe
  89. Kumudini Samuel
  90. Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu
  91. Shreen Saroor
  92. Ambika Satkunanathan
  93. Dr. Kalana Senaratne
  94. Philip Setunga
  95. Hussein Shamil
  96. M. Sitralega
  97. Prof. Sumathy Sivamohan
  98. Ermiza Tegal -AAL
  99. Prof. Chandraguptha Thenuwara
  100. Dr. Sharika Thiranagama
  101. Dr Selvy Thiruchandran
  102. Sandun Thudugala
  103. Deanne Uyangoda
  104. Anithra Varia
  105. Wajid Wazeer
  106. Pasan Weerasinghe – AAL
  107. Ralston Weinman
  108. Dr. Asanga Welikala
  109. Prof. Maithree Wickremasinghe
  110. Subha Wijesiriwardena
  111. Dr. Joe William
  112. Sherine Xavier
  113. Rev. Fr. V. Yogeswaran -AAL
  114. Dr. Javid Yusuf
  115. Faizun Zackariya
  116. Sabra Zahid
  117. Zain Zaid
Institutions
  1. Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners
  2. Families of the Disappeared
  3. Human Rights Office, Kandy
  4. International Centre for Ethnic Studies
  5. National Fisheries Solidarity Movement
  6. Right to Life Human Rights Centre

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