Submission to the Human Rights Committee – Sri Lanka
In its upcoming 136th session, the UN Human Rights Committee will review the sixth periodic report submitted by Sri Lanka and will adopt a review to assist Sri Lanka in the implementation of the ICCPR. In this context, Lawyers for Lawyers welcomed the opportunity to contribute to this review by informing the Committee about the situation of lawyers in Sri Lanka.
In this submission, L4L demonstrates that Sri Lanka has failed to comply with its international human rights commitments to guarantee effective access to legal services provided by an independent legal profession as set out in the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, and subsequently, has failed to comply with article 14 of the ICCPR. The submission contains case examples from lawyers who have been persecuted and harassed due to their work on human rights.
L4L highlights three key areas of concern in the report: the harassment of lawyers, the criminal prosecution of lawyers, and issues regarding access to clients in detention and lawyer-client confidentiality. These issues constitute violations of the professional rights and privileges of lawyers in Sri Lanka. As a result, this severely impairs the proper functioning of the rule of law and the adequate protection of rights to which all persons are entitled, including the rights to an effective remedy and a fair trial. In addition, these violations encroach upon other rights that lawyers, just like every citizen, are entitled to, including the right to liberty and security of person in accordance with article 9 of the ICCPR.
Given the vital role of lawyers in the protection of the rule of law and the protection of fundamental rights, L4L recommends the Committee to address the position of lawyers when reviewing the State Party’s implementation of the ICCPR. More specifically, L4L demands the Committee to include the following recommendations in its review to Sri Lanka:
- Sri Lanka should take measures to prevent the harassment of lawyers and attempts to impede or interfere on improper grounds with their defence of clients, in accordance with Article 14 of the Covenant and articles 16 and 18 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
- Sri Lanka should take all necessary measures to prevent that lawyers suffer or be threatened with prosecution, disciplinary action or other sanctions on improper grounds, in accordance with article 14 of the Covenant and article 16 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
- Sri Lanka should recognize and respect that all communications and consultations between lawyers and their clients within their professional relationship are confidential in accordance with article 14 of the Covenant and article 22 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and not force lawyers to act as a witness in cases in which they represent their clients.
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