Police spokesman SSP Jaliya Senaratne subsequently told reporters that the senior lawyer was arrested in connection with last yearâ€™s Easter Sunday bombings
The citizen collective in their statement claimed that, to date, 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.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) on April 21 called upon the Sri Lankan authorities to respect human rights in the conduct of their investigation of the April 2019 bombings, including ensuring that investigations into the alleged involvement of Hizbullah are conducted in accordance with due process and fair trial guarantees under international law.
Specifically, the ICJ said, the authorities must specify the charges against him, grant him full and immediate access to a lawyer, and investigate the circumstances of his arrest for potential rights violations.
â€œNo one questions the Governmentâ€™s need and obligation to investigate the horrendous Easter Sunday attacks, but these investigations must be conducted in a way that is consistent with international law and the Sri Lankan Constitution,â€ ICJ Asia-Pacific Director Frederick Rawski said.
â€œNot serving Hizbullah a remand order as required by law and denying him full and confidential access to legal counsel is unacceptable and in violation of international standards on the right to liberty,â€ he added.
The ICJâ€™s call was echoed by the citizen activist collective.
â€œWhile 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.
â€œThe fact that Mr Hizbullah has not been allowed to meet his lawyers without the presence of CID officers despite a written request submitted on April 15 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.â€
The signatories were particularly troubled by the CID officersâ€™ allegedly demanding access to the lawyerâ€™s case files which they said is a severe impingement of attorney-client privilege, as well as of Hizbullahâ€™s right to practice his profession freely.
â€œSuch 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,â€ the statement said. (Colombo/Apr23/2020)