Sri Lanka’s new commitment to justice reform welcomed by IBA

EconomyNext – The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has welcomed the new Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena’s early public statements that he will work to strengthen the rule of law and support the independence of the judiciary.

"Since the conflict ended in 2009, Sri Lanka’s independent institutions have been under constant attack," said IBAHRI Co-Chair Baroness Helena Kennedy QC.

"It is now essential to restore public confidence in the rule of law and administration of justice. We are much encouraged by President Sirisena’s early statements."

At his inauguration ceremony President Sirisena stated that he would ‘create a national government… keen in strengthening the rule of law’ and reiterated his intention to secure the impartiality of judicial institutions and ensure the independence of the judiciary.

Sirisena ousted strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa in the January 8 presidential poll.

"The peaceful and democratic transfer of power in Sri Lanka represents significant progress and heralds a new chapter in Sri Lanka’s history," said Hans Corell, IBAHRI Co-Chair.

IBA said in a statement it has been following with concern the situation of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary and legal profession in Sri Lanka for more than a decade.

In 2013, the IBAHRI reported that the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake was unconstitutional.

An IBAHRI delegation undertook a remote rapid-response fact-finding mission in March 2013 to investigate the impeachment proceedings of Chief Justice Bandaranayake, the independence of the legal profession and the rule of law in Sri Lanka.

Its report concluded that the removal from office in Sri Lanka of Chief Justice Bandaranayake was unlawful, undermined public confidence in the rule of law and threatened to eviscerate the country’s judiciary as an independent guarantor of constitutional rights.

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The delegation found there to be a systematic effort to intimidate and discredit lawyers and others who advocate and promote respect for fundamental rights in Sri Lanka.

In 2014, the IBAHRI expressed serious concern at an escalation in incidence of threats and attacks against lawyers and activists – including the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka – for speaking out on rule of law issues.

The IBAHRI in April 2014 called for ‘increased vigilance by the international community following an escalation in threats to human rights defenders’, after the United Nations Human Rights Council voted for an international investigation into alleged war crimes by both the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger separatists.

 

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