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ATTORNEY URGENT  ALERT

 

SRI LANKA

 20 March 2010

  

 

  Supun Ratnayake,

 a lawyer in Kandy

ill treated in public by a senior police officer

while trying to represent his client at a police enquiry.   

 

Source : AHRC.

 

 

 

Supun Ratnayake, 28, a lawyer in Kandy, was asked to appear with his client at Peradeniya police for an inquiry into a land dispute on 20 March 2010. He reports that he arrived at 11am and was told to wait outside the office by Officer In Charge (OIC) Narampanawa. After an hour Mr. Ratnayake tried to speak with the OIC and was shouted at by the officer, who told him that he was busy. After two hours the scheduled inquiry had not been held, the lawyer and his client had not been given any information about the situation and they left.

It is already difficult for a complainant to have his or her report entertained at police stations in Sri Lanka, particularly if the report is related to a human rights violation. We are now hearing cases of persons being ignored even when they hire legal representation. The dismissal of law and procedure in the face of lawyers is exposing a disturbing and increasing boldness on the part of police, and a further breakdown of authority within the administration of justice.

This comes at a time in which the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) is reporting increasing cases of open disrespect and harassment of lawyers by police and officials. The issue is becoming one of grave concern in the country and is affecting clients' rights to representation. The right of lawyers to represent is still not legally enshrined in Sri Lankan law.

Along with reports by the AHRC regarding the lack of protection given to lawyers facing physical threats and assault (such as the cases of H.T. Amitha Ariyaratne and H.R.D.G. Mendis or Mr. J.C. Weliamuna and Mr. D.W.C. Mohotti) the BASL has also highlighted the increase in harassment of its members at police stations during the past few years. The issue was raised during the recent BASL presidential elections, where lawyers spoke of the growing disrespect for their profession by the administration and its representatives. Without adequate treatment and protection, lawyers are not able to bring the often-necessary authority or legal pressure to cases, and Sri Lankans' right to representation is being eroded.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write to the authorities listed below calling for the action and attention of authorities on the harassment of lawyers, and the discipline and punishment of those who abuse them. Please call for the lawyer's right to representation to be brought into domestic legislation, according to international legal standards.

Please note that we have written to the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and to the Bar Association of Sri Lanka informing them of this

 

PLEASE TAKE ACTION NOW !

Write to

 

[Your name here]

 

Your Excellency,

 

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the public disrespect shown to a lawyer in Kandy by a high police official while trying to represent his client at a police enquiry. This comes at a time in which the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) is reporting an increase in cases of open disrespect and harassment of lawyers by police and officials, and the issue is becoming one of grave concern in the country.

 

According to the information I have received Supun Ratnayake was asked to appear with his client at Peradeniya police for an inquiry into a land dispute on 20 March 2010. He reports that he arrived at 11am and was told to wait outside the office by Officer In Charge (OIC) Narampanawa. After an hour Mr. Ratnayake tried to speak with the OIC and was shouted at by the officer, who told him that he was busy and that he must wait. After two hours the scheduled inquiry had not been held, the lawyer and his client had not been given any information about the situation and they left.

 

It is already difficult for a complainant to have his or her report entertained at police stations in Sri Lanka, particularly if the report is related to a human rights violation. Such dismissal of law and procedure in the face of a lawyer is exposing a disturbing and increasing boldness on the part of police, and a further breakdown of authority within the administration of justice.

 

Along with reports by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) regarding the lack of protection given to lawyers facing physical threats and assault, the BASL has also highlighted the increase in harassment of its members at police stations during the past few years. The issue was raised during the recent BASL presidential elections, where lawyers spoke of the growing disrespect for their profession by the administration and its representatives. Without adequate treatment and protection, lawyers are not able to bring the often-necessary authority or legal pressure to cases and Sri Lankans' right to representation is being eroded.

 

I call for further discussion, debate and action on this issue within your department, and for greater efforts to be taken to protect lawyers, and to discipline and punish those who abuse them.

Please note that the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and to the Bar Association of Sri Lanka informing have been informed about this case.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

MEMBERS ONLY

 

 

[Signature]

 

 

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

 

Mr. Mahinda Balasuriya

Inspector General of Police (IGP),

New Secretariat,

Colombo 1,

SRI LANKA

Fax: +94 11 2 440440

E-mail: igp@police.lk

 

Mr. Mohan Peiris

Attorney General

Attorney General's Department

Colombo 12

SRI LANKA

Fax: +94 11 2 436421

 

Secretary, National Police Commission,

3rd Floor Rotunda Towers,

109 Galle Road

Colombo 03,

SRI LANKA

Tel/Fax: +94 11 2 395960

E-mail: npcgen@sltnet.lk or polcom@sltnet.lk

 

Secretary, Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka,

No 108 Barnes Place

Colombo 07

SRI LANKA

Tel: +94 11 2 694 925 / 673 806

Fax: +94 11 2 694 924 / 696 470

E-mail: sechrc@sltnet.lk

 

Chief Justice,

Office of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka

Superior Courts Complex,

Colombo-12,

SRI LANKA

 

Fax: +94-11-2437534

 

 

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY

 

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