ECONOMYNEXT – Amnesty International has declared detained Sri Lankan lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah a prisoner of conscience.
“He is a prisoner of conscience and must me immediately and unconditionally released and all charges against him dropped,” the UK-based international human rights organisation said Wednesday (14).
Hizbullah was arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on April 14, 2020, and placed under a detention order by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) for allegedly “aiding and abetting” the 2019 Easter Sunday bombers and for engaging in activities deemed “detrimental to religious harmony among communities.”
Amnesty International said on its website Wednesday that Hizbullah was detained on “trumped-up charges” under the “draconian” PTA.
“He has been targeted for his work, and his advocacy for the rights of Muslim minorities in the country,” the organisation said.
Hizbullah, the PTA and detained poet and teacher Ahnaf Jazeem have been the focus of concerns raised recently over Sri Lanka’s human rights record.
“We are deeply concerned about the ongoing use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and the recent intention to introduce a rehabilitation process lacking adequate judicial oversight. Human rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah, and poet and teacher Ahnaf Jazeem, remain detained without trial and further arrests under this Act have continued, including among minority communities and the political opposition,” the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) core group on Sri Lanka said on June 24.
Another instance was the recent resolution on Sri Lanka adopted by the European parliament on June 10. Calling for the repeal of the PTA, the European parliament invited the European Union (EU) Commission to consider temporarily withdrawing Sri Lanka’s access to the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) concession.