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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...
    Read More...
  • 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...
    Read More...
  • 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...
    Read More...
  • 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 (
    Read More...
  • 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....
    Read More...
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Coronavirus funerals: Sri Lanka's Muslims decry forced cremation

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Sri Lankan ethnic Muslim women wait in a queue for the Covid-19 blood test in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 04 May 2020

Image copyrightEPA

Image captionSri Lankan Muslim women wait for a Covid-19 test. Some in the community are fighting cremation rules

Sri Lankan authorities are insisting on cremation for coronavirus victims - a practice forbidden by Islam. The nation's minority Muslim community says they are using the pandemic to discriminate, writes BBC Sinhala's Saroj Pathirana.

On 4 May, Fathima Rinoza, a 44-year-old mother of three from Sri Lanka's minority Muslim population, was admitted to hospital with a suspected case of Covid-19.

Fathima, who lived in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, had been suffering from respiratory problems and the authorities feared she had caught the virus.

On the day she was admitted to hospital, the family was "set upon" by the authorities, her husband Mohamed Shafeek said.

"The police and military along with officials arrived at our door," he said. "We were kicked out and they sprayed [disinfectant] everywhere. We were all scared but they didn't tell us anything. Even a three-month-old baby was tested and they took us like dogs to the quarantine centre."

The family was held for a night but released the next day and told to quarantine for two weeks, Mohamed said. By then, they had received news that Fathima had died, at the hospital, on her own.

Fathima's adult son was asked to go to the hospital to identify his mother's body. He was told that her body could not be returned to the family, he said, as her death was linked to Covid-19.

Instead he was forced to sign papers authorising her cremation, the family said - even though under Muslim law cremation is considered a violation of the human body.

"He was told that her body parts needed to be removed for further tests. Why would they need body parts if she had corona?" said his father Shafeek, who feels the family were not fully informed about what happened.

Fathima Rinoza and husband Mohamed Shafeek with their two daughtersImage copyrightMOHAMED SHAFEEKImage captionFathima and her husband Mohamed with their two daughters

Fathima's family and others in Sri Lanka's Muslim community say the authorities are violating their rights by forcing them to cremate victims even though coronavirus victims can be buried.

They argue it's the latest step in a pattern of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese population. A petition against the cremation rule has been accepted by the country's Supreme Court, which will begin hearing the case on 13 July.

Many Muslims in Sri Lanka feel they have been demonised since April 2019, when Islamists linked to little-known local groups targeted high-end hotels and churches in Colombo and in the east of the country, killing more than 250 people in a spate of devastating attacks.

Since the death of the first Sri Lankan Muslim from coronavirus on 31 March, some media outlets have openly blamed the Muslim community for spreading the disease, even though only 11 deaths have been officially recorded in the country.

All 11 bodies, including Muslims, were cremated.

A Muslim priest prays during Eid al-Fitr to mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan at Dewatagaha Mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 24 May 2020Image copyrightDINUKA LIYANAWATTEImage captionRituals associated with burial in Islam are designed to give the body dignity in death

Dr Sugath Samaraweera, the government's chief epidemiologist, told the BBC it was government policy that all those who die from Covid-19, as well as those suspected of dying from it, are cremated, as burials could contaminate ground drinking water.

Dr Samaraweera said the government was following expert medical advice, and applying the rule to anyone suspected of dying from coronavirus, regardless of religion.

"The WHO offers guidelines for the whole world. It is our responsibility to adopt or customise those guidelines suitable to our country," he said.

But Muslim activists, community leaders and politicians have asked the Sri Lankan government to reconsider the decision.

Ali Zahir Moulana, a former minister and senior leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress party, said the Muslim community was prepared to accept the rule "if there is evidence or scientific backing to prove that burial is dangerous to public health". But he questioned the science behind it, and accused the government of pursuing a "dark political agenda".

Interim guidance published by the WHO in March says victims of coronavirus "can be buried or cremated", and does not mention dangers to groundwater.

Sri Lankan lawyers walk past the Supreme Court complex in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 20 May 2020Image copyrightEPAImage captionA petition against the cremation rule has reached the country's Supreme Court

On the same day that Fathima died, 64-year-old Abdul Hameed Mohamed Rafaideen passed away at his sister's house in Colombo. The labourer and father of four had been suffering from breathing difficulties.

His youngest son, Naushad Rafaideen, told the BBC that a neighbour from the majority Sinhala community died the same day.

Because of lockdown travelling restrictions, local police asked the family to take the body of the neighbour, together with their father's body, to the hospital.

At the mortuary, the doctor told Naushad he was not allowed to touch his father's body because of the risks of Covid-19, even though it wasn't clear whether the virus was the cause of death.

A family photo of the Rafaideen familyImage copyrightNAUSHAD RAFAIDEENImage captionHappier times in the Rafaideen family. Naushad is in the middle, and his father on the right

Naushad, who cannot read, was asked to sign some papers which gave permission for his father's body to be cremated.

He said he wasn't sure what would happen to him if he didn't sign, but he feared a backlash against his family and community if he refused. He said the Sinhalese family was treated differently, and allowed to pay respects to their relative at a funeral parlour, though the BBC could not independently verify this. Only Naushad and a handful of relatives were allowed to attend the cremation of his father, he said.

Meanwhile, nearly six weeks after the death of his wife, Shafeek is unsure whether she ever tested positive for coronavirus, and he is struggling to come to terms with not being able to bury her body. One thing he was sure of, he said. "We Muslims do not cremate our dead."

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-53295551?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.com/news/world/asia&link_location=live-reporting-story

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