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The International Bar Association Human Rights Institute raises alarm

July 16, 2009

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IBAHRI alarmed by publication of lawyers’ names on Sri Lanka Ministry of Defence website.

 

The International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) is alarmed by the recent publication of the article ‘Traitors in black coats flocked together?’ on the website of the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order. The article implies that lawyers defending the Sunday Leader newspaper in a defamation and connected contempt of court case brought by the Ministry of Defence are ‘unpatriotic’ and ‘traitors of the nation’. The article also includes photographs of the lawyers concerned.

 

In the context of the sensitivities surrounding the ending of the conflict with the LTTE and the threats currently being faced by lawyers taking politically sensitive cases, the IBAHRI considers this rhetoric to be deeply inappropriate and to seriously compromise the physical safety of the lawyers named.

 

The recently published IBAHRI report, Justice in Retreat, expressed serious concern at the publication of similar material by the Ministry of Defence in the article ‘Who are the Human Rights Violators?’ which implies that certain named lawyers representing terrorism suspects are themselves connected with terrorist activity.

 

Lord Goodhart, who led the IBAHRI fact-finding mission to Sri Lanka, said, ‘The delegation was assured by the government officials it met with in Colombo that the “Who are the Human Rights Violators” article would be removed from the website. It is therefore extremely disappointing to see that not only has this not been done, but that the Ministry of Defence continues to publish articles which leave lawyers open to an increased threat of attack’.

 

‘Governments are required by international law to protect and promote the independence of lawyers and to ensure that they are able to perform their professional functions without intimidation or harassment’, said Justice Richard Goldstone, IBAHRI Co-Chair. ‘The IBAHRI urges the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence to refrain from publishing any potentially inflammatory rhetoric against lawyers and to withdraw both the “Who are the Human Rights Violators?” and the “Traitors in black coats?” articles immediately.’

 

ENDS

 

For further information please contact:

 

Romana St. Matthew – Daniel

 

International Bar Association

 

E-mail: romana.daniel@int-bar.org

 

Website: http://www.ibanet.org

 

Report Links:

 

    * 2009 – Justice in retreat: A report on the independence of the legal profession and the rule of law in Sri Lanka  

 

    * 2001 – Sri Lanka: Failing to Protect the Rule of Law and the Independence of the Judiciary 

 

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