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.
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.