Australia’s Lawyers blast Abbott, Sri Lanka

In hard-hitting articles appearing in the Lawyer’s Weekly, the Law Council of Australia’s (LCA’s) president Michael Colbran QC, criticized Sri Lanka over the worsening rule of law in Sri Lanka and expressed concern over the "reports of threats and intimidation directed at members of the legal profession and judiciary." The Law Weekly also slammed Prime Minister Tony Abbott whose recent comments appeared to condone the allegations of torture by Sri Lanka security forces, as “deplorably simplistic," and that Abbott’s assertion "is contrary to international law as well as Sri Lanka’s own Constitution which prohibits torture without exception," adding also that "[Abbott’s] remark underscores a basic lack of understanding regarding the problem of impunity that Sri Lanka, now the chair of the Commonwealth, faces."

While singling out the impeachment of the Sri Lanka’s Chief Justice, Cochran said, the dismissal did not appear to comply with the principles of natural justice, and that "[a]n independent legal profession and judiciary is an essential component of the rule of law.”

Gabriela Knaul, UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, and one of the three human rights experts whose visa was revoked by Sri Lanka preventing them speaking at a conference co-hosted by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka and International Bar Association Human Right’s Institute (IBAHRI), 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,” Knaul added.

Kishali Jayawardena, a Sri Lanka lawyer and a distinguished visiting fellow at the Australian National University, wrote in LCA Weekly said Prime Minister Abbott’s "assumption that the problem of torture arose and was confined to the parameters of the thirty year conflict between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and government troops in the north and east of the country is misinformed.

"Far from being limited to times of active fighting, the use of torture by state officers is endemic and routine. It is part of an overall problem of state impunity for human rights violators and continues post-war after the LTTE was defeated by government troops in 2009," the visiting fellow said, adding, "[t]he negation of the law and of the courts form an essential part of the Sri Lankan government’s post-war militarization of government."

Coomenting on the state of governance in Tamil areas, the ANU Fellow noted, "[i]n the north and east, the Tamil population is subjected to routine surveillance by a military administration. At higher risk are former LTTE detainees and members of their families who are literally at the mercy of the military. Many of these people flee the country in despair. Even though provincial elections were held in the Northern peninsula resulting in the Tamil people voting en masse for the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) recently, the lack of effective devolved power to the TNA has yet to result in practical change in the lives of these people," Ms Jayawardene said.

"In this context, Prime Minister Abbott’s misinformed prevarications on Sri Lanka while handing over the chairmanship of the Commonwealth does not reflect favorably on Australian foreign policy," the ANU Fellow said.

[Full Coverage]

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