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News

Justice in retreat

By R. Wijewardene

While 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 retreat.˜

The International Bar Association, the foremost association of lawyers in the world voiced its concern that the country's legal system was under severe threat.

In a 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.

The 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 states;

"The 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 must be withdrawn from the website of the Ministry of Defence with immediate effect (It must also be removed from its archive)."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."

As 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.

The 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.

The 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.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

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