23 September, 2019

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Bar Association Wants Amendment To Criminal Procedure Code Scrapped

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) in a letter to President Maithripala Sirisena has expressed it’s opposition over the proposed amendment to the Code of the Criminal Procedure Act, which deprives arrested suspects access to lawyers.

Geoffrey Alagaratnam President Bar Association of Sri Lanka

Geoffrey Alagaratnam
President Bar Association of Sri Lanka

In a letter dated September 22, 2016, the Bar Association has said that the amendment contravenes Sri Lanka’s obligation in terms of International human rights law especially the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

“The Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act No. 4 of 2015, grants an aggrieved party a right of representation at the police station from the inception. However a suspect’s right to be represented will be limited by the proposed Bill resulting in unequal treatment,” the letter said.

BASL highlighted that the new Bill will defeat the progressive steps which were previously taken consequent to a settlement reached in the Supreme Court in a Fundamental Rights Application. “After the settlement the Inspector General of Police made rules under the Police Ordinance cited as Police (Appearances of Attorneys-at-Law at Police Stations) Rules 2012. These Rules recognised the right of a lawyer to represent his/her client at a police station and required the officer in charge of the police station to facilitate such representation,” the letter said.

While reiterating it’s grave concern over the new amendment, the Bar Association noted that It was common knowledge that incidents of torture and police brutality occur mostly between the period of arrest and the conclusion of the recording of the suspect’s statement. “Depriving suspects under arrest and detention of access to their lawyers until the conclusion of their statements will enhance incidents of torture and police brutality and leave arrested suspects vulnerable at the hands of errant police officers,” the Association added in the letter to Sirisena.

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Latest comments

  • 3
    0

    Just the mention of the Bar Association gives one a bad taste in the mouth since it was badly polluted by its predecessors; one in particular, who plays dumb after being rewarded for the services rendered to yahapalanaya tragedy.

  • 4
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    Thank you, Hon. Geoffery Alagaratnam for standing up for the majority of powerless citizens in ‘Ceylon’.

  • 4
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    Geoffrey Alagaratnam, President Bar Association of Sri Lanka

    RE: Bar Association Wants Amendment To Criminal Procedure Code Scrapped

    Absolutely!. This is the Para-Sinhala Para-Buddhist civilization. Even the Wahhabis have a civilized procedure.

    This is needed for checks and balances.

    The only way the suspects, innocent or not, can be protected, is putting checks and balances and accountability, to the process of arrest, presenting the charges in a court of law, and allow the judicial process to take its course.

    Right now, the police arrests, makes their own decisions, tortures the suspects, gets confessions under duress, or kills the suspects, and produces the body.

    What the Gamarala President of Yahapalanaya, in the 2,500 year- old Para-Sinhala, Para-Buddhist “civilization” wants to do is deny basic human rights.

    SRI LANKA: Proposed amendment to the criminal procedure code is a blatant encouragement to torture and degrade suspects.

    http://www.humanrights.asia/countries/sri-lanka

    The hasty passing of laws and emergency regulations particularly with the intention of encouraging law enforcement officers to commit acts which amounts to serious crimes is not an unfamiliar practice in Sri Lanka.

    How Sri Lanka became second in the world with regard to committing the heinous crime of enforced disappearances is an example of creating enabling laws to encourage the commission of crimes. With regard to enforced disappearances, emergency regulations removed the universal guarantee for the protection of right to life that magistrates must be notified of suspicious deaths. Emergency Regulations removed this guarantee and instead allowed an officer of a rank not below that of an ASP, the right to grant permission for the disposal of bodies.

    In this manner, law enforcement officers were enabled to kill persons and dispose of their bodies without the fear of having a magisterial inquiry into the circumstances of such deaths. No wonder that Sri Lanka has achieved the notoriety for second in the world for enforced disappearances.

    A similar law is now being proposed with regard to the right of persons to have recourse to a legal counsel in the event of their arrest, at the earliest point. This is today a universally recognised right. In many countries; now it is an obligation for the police to ensure that a suspect will have the assistance of a legal counsel at the cost of the state itself. For example, in the United States and also in the Philippines, there are special groups of defence counsel whose duty is to represent persons immediately after arrest. In other countries there are legal aid provisions to pay for the cost of such representations. In Hong Kong, every person who is arrested should immediately be given an official sheet of paper in which his or her rights are given in writing. Among such rights mentioned in writing, is the right to take a telephone call, to the family and also the right to contact a legal counsel of his choice.

    • 2
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      Chandra, above, and Dr.Rahasigham Narendran, below:

      The fact that some lawyers, most even, are “blood-suckers” doesn’t eliminate the need for what Amarasiri in his wisdom has described as “checks and balances”.

      As somebody commenting on the companion article stated, “the influential” will not be affected by this amendment.

  • 4
    1

    BASL,

    Strenthen and enforce a code of ethics for the legal fraternity. Most are like blood sucking flees and lice in our body politic. They when given the choice become the most corrupt /crooked polticians.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 6
    0

    Two of the Ex Presidents of BASL who have joined this Government are behaving disgracefully and doing all unethical things, thus making matters of Yahapalanaya distasteful to the people. The irony is the Authorities continue to ignore the misdeeds and allow them, among others to behave in that manner. This present Minister once tried to bring in the Buddhist Kathikawatha and had to withdraw it among protests. There are so many urgent aspects in the Legal System that he has to look into; but the way he is now trying to fix this clearly shows his incompetence and incapacity to hold a position of responsibility as the Minister of Justice. He, as the Minister of Justice should have first and foremost addressed his mind to the “long, long…” delays in disposing the cases that have been gathering dust in the courts. He should think of the common mans plight in meeting the expenses incurred as a result of undue and unbearable postponement of cases in courts. Then the line of cases that have come up recently as a result of the arrests of those “High Flyers” of “Mega Frauds” and corruption and the overload of pending cases referred to AG etc.; what has he done about these matters? Has he addressed his mind to set up at least some “Special Court” to deal with such cases that are of Public Importance? Why can’t someone in authority question him of his performance and if he doesn’t respond and perform to meet the bear minimum expectations, show him the door to get out. One aspect of Yahapalanaya must be: NO ONE IS INDESPENSABLE.

  • 5
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    This is the basic right of a remanded individual. To be represented by a lawyer while the statements are being recorded.
    Who in this right mind would consider such an amendment to do away with this protection?

    • 0
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      Ranjan Fernando

      “Who in this right mind would consider such an amendment to do away with this protection?”

      They must be assuming that most of the populace are idiots, given the average national IQ is 79. However, they forget that not all are idiots, and forget the distribution.

  • 1
    0

    The BASL has voiced its concerns over this proposed obnoxious legislation in the form of an amendment.

    The right to remain silent, and the right to an attorney, by any person arrested by police or armed forces (who have police powers – the only country in which this exists), must be introduced instead.

    The BASL should maintain a panel of lawyers in each district who are ready to appear on behalf of any arrested person, at any hour of the day or night (like doctors responding to any health emergency) to represent any arrested person(s) in any police station/army camp.
    Such panel members should respond even to close relatives of those arrested who give the information.
    Their names and telephone numbers – landline & cell – should be published in the media, and should be made available in all grama niladharis’ offices, district secretariats and post offices.
    The police must be ordered to allow phone calls immediately after arrest, from the police station, by the arrested person(s).

    These measures will prevent intimidation, torture and even murder in the guise of ‘suicide’ of arrested citizens, which occur even now.

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