The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) in correspondence addressed to the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) raised concerns over the unethical and unprofessional conduct of certain members of the regional bar associations.
The misconduct had been reported in several areas, especially following the 21 April attacks, where lawyers had refrained from representing suspects arrested in relation to the terror attacks.
The HRCSL told the BASL that members of certain regional bar associations had refused to appear on behalf of members of the Muslim community arrested in the backdrop of the attacks. HRCSL Chairperson Dr N.D. Udugama, in a letter to the BASL, wrote that the Commission had observed that certain regional bar associations had informal understandings among their members, or at least some of their members, not to appear for that category of suspects. She also wrote: “The Magistrate’s Court of Marawila, all the regular practitioners refused to appear on behalf of six people who were arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in the aftermath of the 21 April attacks. In fact, when a visiting lawyer had agreed to appear for the limited purpose of requesting bail (the most standard work of a magistrate’s court practitioner), the regular practitioners were very hostile to her as well.”
While four suspects have now been released, the remaining two suspects are represented by practitioners who do not usually practice in Marawila, the HRCSL stated.
“This pattern is being reported from several other areas too, where those charged under the PTA or Emergency Regulations following the 21 April attacks are compelled to seek representation from outside the area at great cost because the regular practitioners of the relevant court are refusing to represent them,” Dr. Udugama reiterated.
Furthermore, the HRCSL had requested the BASL to take necessary action to ensure rectification of the situation.