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  • Why Sri Lanka jailed a Muslim lawyer without charge for 6 months
                                      The Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists, the EU and UN Human Rights Core Group on Sri Lanka have expressed their concerns on the arbitrary arrest and detention of Hizbullah [Photo courtesy: Family] Why Sri Lanka jailed a Muslim lawyer without charge for 6 months Rights groups and members of civil society have raised concerns over the continued incarceration of a Muslim lawyer in Sri Lanka, adding that his prolonged detention “had a chilling effect on anyone involved in peaceful dissent and advocacy”.

    Hejaaz Hizbullah, a prominent human rights lawyer, was arrested on “terrorism” charges in April and has remained in detention...
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  • Hejaaz Hizbullah case: CID misled public and Cardinal, says Counsel
    When the case of the arrest of Hejaaz Hizbullah was taken up yesterday, the Counsel alleged that the Criminal Investigations Department had misled the Cardinal and the public with regard to Hizbullah.

    “They lied to His Eminence the Cardinal and the public. The real culprits were never caught and they have instead found a scapegoat in Hejaaz,” the Counsel said.

    The CID submitting a report said that they were awaiting a Government Analyst report on three phones used by Hizbullah.

    “This is how they lied throughout. They said the investigations were to be completed and a Deputy Solicitor General of the Attorney General’s Department said it would be by 16 September. The CID lied to the Attorney General’s Department as well and is now seeking further time.”

    The CID said that transactions of...
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  • Sri Lanka has locked up this Muslim lawyer without charge for nearly five months
    The prominent Sri Lankan Muslim lawyer, Hejaaz Hizbullah, is being described by human rights groups as the latest victim of Sri Lanka’s draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act.

    On April 14, Hizbullah, 40, got a call from the Ministry of Health saying they were worried he may have contracted COVID-19 and advised him to remain at home.

    A day earlier he and others had written to the Sri Lankan president about his government’s decision to ban Muslims from burying their dead, forcing them to cremate their remains instead – a violation of their right to freedom of religion, as protected by Sri Lanka’s constitution and its international obligations.

    Hejaaz Hizbullah was a lawyer at the Supreme Court and worked as a state counsel for the Attorney General’s department. Beyond his legal work, he was involved...
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  • “කවදා හෝ යුක්තිය ඉටුවේයැ’යි බලාපොරොත්තු සහගතව ජීවිතය ගෙවනවා විනා වෙන කිසිවක් කළ නොහැකි වීම ගැන මට ඇත්තේ නොදැරිය හැකි වේදනාවකි”: මගේ මල්ලි හිජාස්
    හිජාස් හිස්බුල්ලා මගේ බාල සොහොයුරා ය. අගෝස්තු 25 වැනි දිනට එළඹුණු ඔහුගේ 40 වැනි උපන්දිනය ඔහුට ගත කිරීමට සිදු වුයේ පාස්කු ඉරිදා ත්‍රස්තවාදී ප්‍රහාරයට සම්බන්ධ බවට අභූත චෝදනා එල්ල කරමින් අයුතු ලෙස අත්තඩංගුවට පත්ව අපරාධ පරීක්ෂණ දෙපාර්තමේන්තුවේ රැඳවුම් භාරයේදී ය. හිජාස් පිළිබඳව මට ඇති පැරණිතම මතකයන් අතර බොහොමයක් කළුබෝවිල සිට...
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  • Hejaaz Detention: Fort Magistrate Orders CID To Submit All Statements Obtained In Investigations


    Following submissions by Defence Counsel that the Criminal Investigations Department is selectively reporting facts to the Magistrate in order to malign Hejaaz Hizbullah, Fort Magistrate today ordered the Criminal Investigations Department to submit a report of all statements obtained by them from persons relating to the investigations of Hizbullah.
    When the case was taken up today. Counsel for the Defence informed Court that the Criminal Investigations Department had obtained statements from all persons of the Save the Pearls Charity and the Teachers and Board of Management of the Al-Zuhriya Madarasa.

    However, none of those statements had been produced to date.
    They said that the statements would reveal that all the allegations made by the CID are a fabrication and were made in order to malign Hizbullah and...
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  • Hejaaz Hizbullah: Symptom and symbol
    What made him more enigmatic was that unlike most others in his profession who shield their lives beneath a calm facade, he taught exceptionally well Apparently he called the Easter attackers “fools who died as fools.” I can picture Hejaaz saying that   There’s an image of Hejaaz Hizbullah I return to over and over again. It’s an image of him holding a placard at a protest in 2018. The placard reads, “Asilachaara parliamenthuwak wenuwata seelachara parliamenthuwak” (“A cultured parliament in place of an uncultured parliament”). The reason why it resonates with me is that, even in the ecstatic way he holds it, he is quite unlike the Hejaaz Hizbullah I once knew. But then I realise that the Hejaaz I once knew couldn’t have been the real guy. 
    I first encountered the man in 2013 at my law school. He didn’t...
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  • Niqab Ban In France Violates Human Rights Of Muslim Women: UN Human Rights Committee
    The United Nations Human Rights Committee said France’s niqab ban violates the human rights of Muslim women and risks “confining them to their homes.” Women in France can be fined up to 150 euros for wearing the niqab, a full-face...
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  • Rathana At It Again; ACJU Is The Punching Bag For Everyone
    By Mass L. Usuf Mass Usuf Let this column begin with a Disclaimer. It is only an analysis and the writer is not holding a brief to defend or protect the All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulema (
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  • Democracy Threatened: Impunity, Political Patronage & Rollback Of Devolution
    By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole – R. Sasilan: Assistant Commissioner of Elections Today we are opening new living quarters for our Election Commission’s man-in-charge in Batticaloa. I am so glad because R. Sasilan is a man I am proud of. He stands up for what is right without fear or favor. When a minister distributed gifts in elections some years ago, he confiscated a gift pack and filed a complaint with the police. The police, as often happens, disappeared the evidence. Sasilan sent a report to the Commission and that too disappeared....
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Sri Lanka 'on the brink' amid fresh anti-Muslim violence

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Sri Lanka 'on the brink' amid fresh anti-Muslim violence
Mob attacks in Kandy are targeted and well planned, witnesses say, as fears grow over threats to Sri Lanka's stability.

Ambatenna, Sri Lanka - The Sinhalese Buddhist mob came by the hundreds, screaming at the top of their lungs and carrying sticks, stones and petrol bombs, as they descended on the hill town of Ambatenna in central Sri Lanka on Wednesday.

Some two dozen policemen and soldiers watched helplessly, according to residents, as the mob vandalised and set fire to Muslim homes and businesses in the town's Welekada area.

"We were so scared," Fathima Zameer told Al Jazeera, clutching her three-week-old infant as she recounted the violence that swept through her neighbourhood that morning.

"We have nowhere to go. They broke all the windows in my house. Our whole house is burnt."

The mob, which witnesses said was between 200 and 500-strong, overran Welekada defying a curfew and a state of emergency imposed by President Maithiripala Sirisena a day earlier to quell anti-Muslim riots that began in the highland district of Kandy over the weekend.

In Welekada, rioters vandalised at least 15 houses belonging to Sri Lanka's Muslim minority and a mosque, residents told Al Jazeera. Four of the buildings and several vehicles were also torched.

The attacks have raised fears of a return to conflict and instability in Sri Lanka, less than a decade after the South Asian island nation ended a bloody civil war with Tamil separatists.

The latest bout of communal violence began on Sunday when a man from the mainly Buddhist Sinhalese majority died after being beaten by a group of Muslim men over a traffic accident in the town of Teledeniya in Kandy, an area famous for its tea plantations and Buddhist religious sites.

The next day, hundreds of Sinhala Buddhists, mostly outsiders, according to officials and residents, poured into Kandy and attacked and torched dozens of Muslim businesses, houses and mosques. The body of a 23-year-old Muslim man was found in a burned building, and the government, fearing more violence, imposed a state of emergency on Tuesday. It also deployed the army and extended a police curfew in the region.

The violence, however, continued. Overnight on Wednesday "several incidents" were reported in four towns, said Ruwan Gunasekara, a police spokesman.

Three police officers were injured during clashes in Menikhinna, he said. Later in the day, Ambatenna was attacked and a Sinhalese man was killed there after a hand grenade he was carrying exploded.

Gunasekara said security forces have arrested about 35 people since the riots began.

The government has also suspended internet services in the area and blocked access to Facebook and other social messaging applications including Whatsapp and Viber in an attempt to halt incendiary rumours.

'We don't feel safe'
Shukry Cassim, whose four-bedroom house was vandalised in Welekada, said he was "petrified".

"We don't feel safe. All our children are traumatised. We don't know where to go, or who to trust," the 27-year-old accountant told Al Jazeera, standing in front of the burned hulk of his car in his garage.

"We don't know why this is happening. The mob is not from our area. We don't know them," he said. "But they couldn't have done this without the support of people from our area because they have targeted the Muslim houses, and excluded the non-Muslim houses."

Cassim, however, said the violence was instigated by "a few people".

Relations between Muslims and Buddhists in the Kandy district have been historically harmonious, he said, adding: "We share food during religious festivals, we play together and buy goods from each other's shops."

Analysts say tensions flared up between the two communities because of the rise of Buddhist nationalist groups following the end of the country's three-decade war. These groups include the monk-led Bodu Bala Sena, which has links to Buddhist hardline groups in Myanmar.

They are widely perceived to have the support of former President Mahinda Rajapakse, and accuse the Muslims, who make up 10 percent of Sri Lanka's 21 million population, of forcing people to convert to Islam and of destroying sacred Buddhist sites. Prior to the Kandy riots, at least three other major incidents of anti-Muslim violence have been reported in the past year.

"Sri Lanka is on the brink," said Alan Keenan, a researcher at the International Crisis Group.

"These attacks are organised, well-planned," he said. "And there is good reason to believe they are partly designed to provoke a Muslim response, which would then justify more violence against Muslims." 

The Muslim community has "been admirably restrained" so far, he said. But if the minority retaliates by attacking the Sinhalese community, "other Sinhalese will then feel threatened and participate in a way they haven't yet".

Police inaction
Keenan also said he was concerned by the inability of the army and the police to control the riots.

"The reason for this is unclear - whether they [the security forces] have been badly deployed, or deployed in inadequate numbers. What worries me is the hypothesis that some significant degree of the police and military are sympathetic to the rioters, which would not be surprising," he said, referring to reports of state collusion in the clashes that broke out between Muslims and Buddhists in 2014 which left four dead and many injured.

A third factor may be that security forces are "cautious" to act, Keenan said, because of Sirisena's coalition government's humiliating defeat to Rajapakse's party in local council elections in February.

Sirisena ousted Rajapakse, who is accused of authoritarianism, corruption and human rights abuses, in 2015 after campaigning on a platform of national reconciliation and constitutional reform. However, the coalition that brought the president to power was in tatters ahead of the February vote.

Rajapakse's party win "emboldened" Sinhala Buddhist hardline groups and "more crucially, police and other state officials are now more likely to hedge their bets," said Keenan.

"They [the police] may not be sure if they should go after the rioters. Because they are known to have the sympathy, if not the active support of Rajapakse and his people.

"If Rajapakse and his people are going to be running the government soon, which is possible, a police officer wouldn't want to be known as the courageous guy who did his duty and stopped the violence."

Government in jeopardy
If the clashes continued, said Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director at the Centre for Policy Alternatives, a Colombo-based think-tank, the future of Sirisena's government could be in jeopardy.

"Some say [the riots are instigated] to show that this government is incompetent and incapable," he said. "Others say this is to create instability, which will expedite yet another regime change."

Urging Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickeremasinghe to "act fast, quickly and decisively," Saravanamuttu said security forces must arrest perpetrators of the violence and "it should be communicated to the country at large that we are a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country and we intend to stay so".

The conflict could also affect Sri Lanka's economic recovery after decades of war, he warned.

"If we continue with emergencies and blocking social media, tourists are not going to come and investors are going to start thinking twice," he said.

Back in Welekade, Zameer said she was "hurt" and "heartbroken" by the violence.

"We want safety and security. We don't want anyone to face this," she said.

Cassim echoed her sentiments: "I have tasted the bitterness of war. And I want peace."

Irfan Cader reported from Ambatenna. Zaheena Rasheed reported and wrote from Doha.

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/03/sri-lanka-brink-fresh-anti-muslim-violence-180307203031915.html

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