Justice in retreat
By R. Wijewardene
the nation celebrated a great victory only a fortnight
ago, a report published by the˜ International Bar
Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) claims
that justice in Sri Lanka is still˜ actively˜ in
International Bar Association, the foremost association
of lawyers in the world voiced its concern that the
country's legal system was under severe threat.
damning 155 page report the association details the
threats faced by lawyers in Sri Lanka and accuses the
state of working deliberately to intimidate lawyers who
do not conform to the government's political agenda.
report singles out a page on the Ministry of Defence
website which implies that lawyers appearing on behalf
of terrorist suspects are linked to terrorist activity
and in its long list of recommendation the report
article entitled 'Who are the human rights violators?'
must be withdrawn from the website of the Ministry of
Defence with immediate effect (It must also be removed
from its archive)."
IBAHR's report states explicitly that lawyers arguing
cases against the state have been subjected to
harassment by the police and concludes that far from
being isolated incidents, attacks against human rights
lawyers "form part of a pattern of intimidation" and
that a "climate of fear had been created among lawyers
in the country."
much as physical intimidation the report argues that the
politicisation of the judiciary poses a threat to the
justice system, and claims that counter terrorist
legislation and emergency regulations have severely
undermined the legal system in Sri Lanka.
report states that every aspect of the legal system in
Sri Lanka has deteriorated severely since 2001 and noted
that political interference and presidential
interference regarding judicial appointments had
undermined confidence in the entire judicial system, as
had the excessive influence of the Chief Justice.To
rectify the situation the report concluded with a long
list of recommendations chief amongst which was the
re-establishment of the Constitutional Council in
accordance with the 17th Amendment.
report also urged that the appointment, transfer,
dismissal or retirement of judges at all levels be
determined by a transparent and accountable system and
called on the government to expedite the police
investigations intoÿthreats and attacks upon lawyers.
Ultimately the report stressed the urgent need for the
government to phase out the Emergency Regulations and
the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which it cites as being
chiefly responsible for the deterioration in the
country's legal environment.