Urgent Action Update: LAWYER DETAINED WITHOUT TRIAL FOR OVER A YEAR (Sri Lanka: UA 62.20)

July 14, 2021

Hejaaz Hizbullah, a prominent Sri Lankan lawyer, was arrested on April 14, 2020 and has since been detained on trumped-up charges under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Hejaaz Hizbullah has been targeted for his work, and his advocacy for the rights of Muslim minorities in the country. He is a prisoner of conscience and must me immediately and unconditionally released and all charges against him dropped.

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TAKE ACTION:

  1. Please take action as-soon-as possible. This Urgent Action expires on September 14, 2021.
  2. Write a letter in your own words or using the sample below as a guide to one or both government officials listed. You can also email, fax, call or Tweet them.
  3. Click here to let us know the actions you took on Urgent Action 62.20. It’s important to report because we share the total number with the officials we are trying to persuade and the people we are trying to help.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam
Attorney General’s Department
Hulftsdorp Street,
Colombo 12
Sri Lanka
Fax: +94 112 436421
Email: [email protected]
[email protected]
Ambassador Ravinatha P. Aryasinha
Embassy of Sri Lanka
3025 Whitehaven Street NW
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: 202 483 4025 I Fax: 202 232 7181
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @EmbassyofSL, @RavinathaArya
Facebook: @slembassyusa
Salutation: Dear Ambassador

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear Attorney General,

I am deeply concerned about the prolonged detention of Sri Lankan lawyer and minority and civic rights activist Hejaaz Hizbullah. Detained since April 14, 2020 on trumped-up charges under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), no credible evidence of wrongdoing has yet been presented before a court.

It is distressing to learn that, since his arrest, Hejaaz Hizbullah has been repeatedly denied due process safeguards recognized by international law. He has been held in prolonged administrative detention without judicial oversight to monitor his wellbeing, without access to bail. While in police custody he was prevented from accessing his legal counsel in private until an order was made by the Court of Appeal. Even following his indictment in February 2021 and being moved to judicial remand, access to family and counsel has been restricted.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) has had a chilling effect on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in Sri Lanka as it provides authorities with sweeping powers to arbitrarily detain individuals for up to 18 months without charge or trial on mere suspicion of an offence. The principle of legality requires laws to classify and describe offences in precise and unambiguous language that narrowly defines the punishable behaviour. However, the PTA’s offences are overly broad, vague and subjective, and have been used in the past to suppress critics of government.

Hejaaz Hizbullah has been a vocal critic of the government, raising issues of discrimination against the Muslim minority in Sri Lanka, among his other human rights work. I find it alarming that, instead of supporting his advocacy against discrimination, he has been targeted by the authorities simply for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.

Hejaaz Hizbullah is a Prisoner of Conscience targeted for his work and opinion, and I, therefore, urge you to drop all charges against him and call for his immediate and unconditional release. I also call on the Sri Lankan authorities to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and end its use immediately.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME]

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES