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PTA Detainee Hejaaz Hizbullah Has Been Declared A Prisoner Of Conscience

Sri Lanka Updates
1. Government Amplifies Prevention Of Terrorism Act In Sri Lanka
2. Under New PTA Regulations, 11 Muslim Groups Banned in Sri Lanka
3. Government Begins Framework For Anti-Conversion Laws
4. Unlawful PTA Allows For Detention Up To 18 Months Without Trial Or Charge In Sri Lanka
5. U.S. Congress Introduces Bipartisan Resolution On Sri Lanka To Seek Justice And Accountability 
6. Government Moves Forward With Burqa And Niqab Ban
7. Res 413 Has Been Sent To The U.S House Foreign Affairs Committee
8. European Parliament Threatens To Pull GSP+ Status If PTA Not Repealed
9. UNHRC Chief Says Government Policies Have Targeted Muslims
10. Sri Lankan President Pardons 94, Including Convicted Murderer
11. China’s Oppression Of Muslims Could Be Influencing Srilanka
12. PTA Detainee Hejaaz Hizbullah Has Been Declared A Prisoner Of Conscience
13. Threat Of Intergovernmental Militarization Looms
14. Right To Protest Under Threat As 42 Arrested
15. Rapporteur Says That De-radicalization Regulations Could Lead To Silence Of Those Who Criticize Government
16. Covid Burial Site Already Reaching Capacity As Additional Space Confirmed
17. Opposition Party Accuses President Of Becoming Authoritarian
18. UN Special Rapporteur Says PTA Detainee Hejaaz Hizbullah Has Been Wrongfully Connected To Easter 2019
19. Prison Conditions Poor, Overcrowded; Detainees Tell Stories Of Sexual Assault And Torture
20. President Rajapaksa meets with UN Secretary General Antony Guterres
21. BBS Monk Thero Makes Hateful Comments About Muslims On Television
22. India, China, And Sri Lanka Are Connected In Targeted Oppression
23. Justice Minister Sabry Says PTA Is Unlikely To Ever Be Abolished

Amnesty International has declared human rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah a prisoner of conscience. He was arrested on April 14, 2020 for accusations of aiding people who were involved in the Easter attacks. The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC), said “He appears to have been targeted in connection with his work as a lawyer in cases challenging the government under the Constitution and hate speech, violence and discrimination against the Muslim community.”

On March 15, the Puttalam High Court filed charges against him under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act that he incited communal disharmony.

Fifteen months after arrest, Hizbullah’s case has not provided any evidence against him. He has been denied due process, bail, and had restricted access to his family and counsel. He is also confined to a cell that is 6ft long, 3ft wide, and 7ft high without a pillow and sleeps on a mat on the floor.

Hizbullah was unable to be there for the birth of his first child, with wife Maram Khalifa. Since birth, he has spoken to her once, to ensure she and their daughter were well. Knowing they were targeted beforehand, they had discussed leaving the country, but Hizbullah refused, insisting he had done no wrong. Her last words to him were “The path of justice is not the easiest but it is definitely the right one”. Khalifa said that authorities lied to her about how long he was going to be detained and she felt they had immediately determined he was guilty.

In January, Hizbullah had contracted Covid-19, to which his wife was shocked – because he was kept isolated and had suspended visits.

Khalifa herself has been a center of Islamophobia, being Egyptian. People have harassed her for being Arab, said it was suspicious that Hizbullah married her, and some have even researched her family’s history trying to connect her to terrorism, which there is none.

In a letter to Khalifa, Hizbullah said that he thinks their daughter will be a great travelling companion and that he could see himself swimming with her in the Red Sea, inshAllah.

Ninety six academics in Sri Lanka have signed a statement ‘A call to action against the detention of Hejaaz Hizbullah and Ahnaf Jazeem, anti-Muslim violence, and attacks on democracy’ which demands the immediate release of both of them. They state that these arrests are part of anti-Muslim attacks which are harming society. As a part of the deteriorating criminal justice system, the signees call to repeal the PTA, other unjust laws, and for public accountability to take place.

Journalists are also being targeted by the PTA. Tamil journalist Kokilan Thasan was arrested in November 2020 for posting pictures and sharing on Facebook of Tamils exercising their right to observe loved ones lost during the civil war. He was then accused of promoting the LTTE. His lawyers have sent a letter to the Human Rights Council of Sri Lanka for his release.

Freelance journalist Selvakumar Nilanthan was interrogated for three hours, questioned about his bank accounts, social media, and if he supported the LTTE on July 12. He frequently covers human rights cases and was charged in January 2020 for obstruction of a police officer, defamation, criminal intimidation, and more when he was writing an article of government corruption.

Many journalists who cover human rights or expose corruption have disappeared, left Sri Lanka, or been abducted. Others receive continuous harassment. They are constantly asked if they are with or support LTTE.

Meanwhile, convicted murderers are pardoned and meet with the President, as Duminda Silva did with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on July 12.

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