Asian Human Rights Commission asks Bar Association to look in the mirror

Monday, 28 August 2017 00:18 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), a regional non-governmental organisation which monitors human rights in Asia, heavily criticised the Sri Lanka Bar Association’s threat to take legal action against Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake for criticising the lawyers and judges of the country.

President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) U.R. De Silva threatened to take contempt of court action against a deputy minister who has made some serious criticisms against the courts and the legal profession saying that most of the lawyers and judges in the country were corrupt and ruining the country.

The AHRC in a statement said while it was not defending the deputy minister, such threats against anyone who was making public criticisms was perturbing.

“While it is not our intention to defend the deputy minister, we are perturbed by such threats against anyone who is publicly airing criticisms - against any real or perceived problems relating to the Judiciary and the legal profession - as the damage done by the curtailment of such criticisms will far exceed any damage that may be done by such criticisms.”

The AHRC said it is “prudent and wise to recall” the words expressed by the Bar Association President.

Referring to a statement made by the Bar Association President that “the Bar Association of Sri Lanka notes with concern the undue and unwarranted attacks on the law enforcement authorities”, the AHRC said the BASL should specify what those attacks are. 

“Is it an unwarranted criticism that as the prosecutor against crime the Attorney General has failed to impartially and competently prosecute all the crimes that are taking place in Sri Lanka? Is it an undue and unwarranted criticism to say that the entire system of administration of justice is beset with undue and unwarranted delays and such delays have threatened the very prevalence of the rule of law in Sri Lanka?” the AHRC asked.

The human rights organisation pointed out that the most recent statement of the UN Special Rapporteur for the independence of judges and lawyers also noted the most fundamental defects of the system of administration of justice in Sri Lanka.

“It is far better to look in the mirror and recognise whatever that is ugly that may have begun to emerge in one’s own appearance. Such honesty and frankness does no harm. However, to hypocritically evade criticism is to let down the legal profession, the independence of the Judiciary and the freedom of the people to live without fear and suspicion,” the AHRC wrote.