Sri Lanka Brief
NewsAmendment to the Criminal Procedure Code contravenes Sri Lanka’s HR obligations – BASL

Amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code contravenes Sri Lanka’s HR obligations – BASL

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(The proposed amendment restricts detainees rights)

In a letter to the President Maithiripala Sirisena the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has opposed the proposed amend to the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL say that “the amendment contravenes Sri Lanka’s obligations in terms of international human rights law especially the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). It has been observed that the right to liberty and security of persons and the right of due process established by law require the State to permit access to counsel from the inception of the detention and that there ought to be prompt and regular access to lawyers”

The letter sent by BASL  to President Sirisena  follows:

 

A Bill has been published in the Gazette on the 12th of August 2016, proposing to amend the Criminal Procedure Code, which will deprive a suspect who has been arrested access to an Attorney-at-law until a statement is recorded from him/her.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka is gravely concerned about this proposal as it will deprive arrested suspects from having prompt access to lawyers.

It is common knowledge that incidents of torture and police brutality occur mostly between the period of arrest and the conclusion of the recording of the suspect’s statement. Depriving suspects under arrest and detention of access to their lawyers until the conclusion of their statements will enhance incidents of torture and police brutality and leave arrested suspects vulnerable at the hands of errant police officers.

The new Bill will defeat the progressive steps which were previously taken consequent to a settlement reached in the Supreme Court in a Fundamental Rights Application. After the settlement the Inspector General of Police made rules under the Police Ordinance cited as Police (Appearances of Attorneys-at-Law at Police Stations) Rules 2012. These Rules recognised the right of a lawyer to represent his/her client at a police station and required the officer in charge of the police station to facilitate such representation.

These rules recognise the right which all persons including suspects have to access their Attorneys-at-law at any time, including the period immediately after arrest and while being in detention. The new Bill is contrary to the settlement reached in the Supreme Court and will be an affront to the Rule of Law.

The Bar Association is also of the view that the new Bill contravenes Sri Lanka’s obligations in terms of international human rights law especially the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). It has been observed that the right to liberty and security of persons and the right of due process established by law require the State to permit access to counsel from the inception of the detention and that there ought to be prompt and regular access to lawyers.

Furthermore the Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act No. 4 of 2015, grants an aggrieved party a right of representation at the police station from the inception. However a suspect’s right to be represented will be limited by the proposed Bill resulting in unequal treatment.

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