The Law Council of Australia (LCA) has joined a chorus of criticism directed at the Sri Lankan government over the state of the rule of law in the country.
LCA president Michael Colbran QC said he was particularly concerned by reports of threats and intimidation directed at members of the legal profession and judiciary in Sri Lanka.
He singled out the impeachment of the former Chief Justice of Sri Lanka in January, claiming the dismissal did not appear to comply with the principles of natural justice.
“An independent legal profession and judiciary is an essential component of the rule of law,” he said.
Earlier this month, authorities revoked the visas of three human rights experts speaking at a conference co-hosted by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka and International Bar Association Human Right’s Institute (IBAHRI). The event coincided with Sri Lanka’s hosting of this year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
One of the speakers whose visa was revoked, Gabriela Knaul, UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, said she had serious concerns about acts of reprisals against judges, prosecutors, lawyers and other members of the judicial system who cooperate with UN and regional human rights mechanisms.
“Reprisals against judicial actors and legal professionals are a kind of attack to their institutional and functional independence,” she added.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) also highlighted Sri Lanka’s disregard for international standards in an open letter signed by 56 eminent jurists and senior judges from around the world. The letter also raised concerns about the independence of the judiciary and the removal of judges.
Colbran has called on the Australian Government to continue to address these matters with the government of Sri Lanka.
However, Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena, a Sri Lankan lawyer and legal columnist for Colombo’s Sunday Times, is unimpressed by the Australian Government’s efforts so far. She slammed recent remarks by Prime Minister Tony Abbott as “deplorably simplistic” and showing a lack of understanding regarding the problem of impunity that Sri Lanka faces.