As professionals, we have seen the deterioration of the institutional integrity and rule of law in this country for many years. As lawyers we have, from time to time, urged the succeeding governments to protect human rights of the citizens and establish Rule of Law.
2011-05-25 | Press Statement- Lawyers for Democracy
The war in the North and East has come to an end. Due to the blanket censorship on conflict related news, local and international media did not have the freedom to cover the conflict. Consequently,the public only received one sided information and in general, the public was kept in the dark. In the absence of independent access for journalists, the sources of information were the military and the LTTE, both of whom were obviously biased.
The Report recently released by the UN concludes that the serious allegations of war crimes that have been made against the Government and the LTTE are credible. There is thus an overwhelming need to verify the accuracy of these allegations. Such verification is essential if the country is serious in guaranteeing long lasting reconciliation to its citizens.
Lawyers for Democracy (LfD), an active collective of representative lawyers, are saddened by the counter- productive and unprofessional responses from the political leadership, key individuals and professional bodies to the Report. Their responses are generally marred by their political affiliations and emotions. We have also watched a buildup of state sponsored moves at all levels to discredit the Report without responding to the allegations in a reasonable manner. Many professional bodies have also adopted resolutions guided by emotions and without considering the legal implications of the Panel Report. In doing so they have ignored the adverse consequences of their responses for Sri Lanka’s international relations. LfD is of the view that professionals, including in particular legal professionals, to first understand the international legal obligations arriving out of the Report. This will be a constructive contribution to helping the political leadership and the country to come to terms with the Report and its recommendations.
As professionals, we have seen the deterioration of the institutional integrity and rule of law in this country for many years. As lawyers we have, from time to time, urged the succeeding governments to protect human rights of the citizens and establish Rule of Law. We are of the view that there is an overwhelming collective duty on Sri Lankans to ensure that Sri Lanka respects rule of law and democratic rights of the citizens, within its legal framework and in accordance with the international human rights obligations. There is thus an urgency of establishing internal mechanism in conformity with internationally accepted standards to address the accountability issues, which is perhaps the best response to the UN Report.
The issues raised in the Report are essentially alleged breaches of human rights and humanitarian law. Thus we are reminded of the words of late Mr. H.L. de Silva, President’s Counsel and former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, -which needs to guide legal professionals in particular at this hour-
“Our own sense of national pride, our sense of self esteem and the respect accorded to us by the rest of the world depend on the extent to which we respect human rights and freedoms of all people everywhere as well as in our own land.”
Lawyers of Democracy (LfD) is a representative body of legal practitioners and include Lal Wijenayaka, Chandra Kumarage, K.S.Ratnavale, V. Sumanthiran, Sudath Nethesinghe, L. Jothikumar, Ranjit Wijekoon, Sujeewa Lal Dahanayake, J.C.Weliamuna and Sudarshana Gunawardena
Conveners of Lawyers for Democracy (LfD)
On this 25th Day of May 2011