Monday 11 February 2013

The Sri Lankan government has refused to allow an international delegation of lawyers to visit the country to assess the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.

One delegate, former Supreme Court of India chief justice J. S. Verma, said he had his entry visa revoked 11 days after it was granted.

The International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) delegation had planned to be in Sri Lanka from 1 to 10 February - its third visit in 12 years.

However, according to IBAHRI programme lawyer Shane Keenan, who was to be part of the delegation, 'no substantive explanation' was given for refusing entry to the country on this occasion, although the Sri Lankan authorities did claim that visa applications had been incorrectly completed.

IBA executive director Mark Ellis said: 'It is disappointing that the Sri Lankan authorities have missed the opportunity to co-operate on a visit by respected foreign members of the legal system. It will suggest to the international community that the Sri Lankan authorities are fearful of having independent eyes on the issues of interest to the legal profession.'

The delegation had intended to meet members of the legal profession, government, media and civil society, to discuss the development of the legal profession, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in Sri Lanka.

An IBAHRI spokesman said it had expressed its 'serious concern' to the Sri Lankan high commission in London.

The high commission was contacted for comment, but had not responded by the time the Gazette went to press.

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