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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Sri Lanka: Arrest and Detention of Attorney-at-law Hejaaz Hizbullah is Arbitrary & interference of his legal practice – Joint statement

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Statement 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


  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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