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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Joint statement on the ongoing trial of lawyer and human rights defender Hejaaz Hizbullah

Lawyers for Lawyers, the Bar Human Rights Committee, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Committee (IBAHRI), International Commission of Jurists, the Law Society of England and Wales, and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) are concerned about the ongoing violations of fair trial rights in the ongoing trial of Sri Lankan lawyer and human rights defender Hejaaz Hizbullah. Key witnesses have been subject to threat, coercion, intimidation and arrest.

We have strong reasons to believe Mr Hizbullah is being persecuted for his work to defend the rights of persons from the Muslim community in Sri Lanka in his capacity as a lawyer and human rights defender. Mr Hizbullah’s next trial date is scheduled for 14 July 2023, but given recent reports of witness intimidation and coercion, we have grave concerns that he will be denied a fair trial.

In view of the above, we urge the government of Sri Lanka to:

  • Ensure that Mr Hizbullah is afforded all the elements of a fair trial under international law;
  • End all acts of harassment against Mr Hizbullah;
  • Immediately stop the arbitrary arrest, threat of arrest, coercion and other intimidation of witnesses in his case;
  • Immediately release the remaining two potential defence witnesses who were arrested on 18 May;
  • Reform the PTA and bring it in line with Sri Lanka’s international human rights obligations;
  • Ensure that all lawyers and human rights defenders in Sri Lanka are able to carry out their legitimate professional activities without fear of reprisals and free of undue interference.

The full statement can be read here.

19 June 2023.

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