Already an IBA member? Sign in for a better website experience
The IBA’s response to the war in Ukraine
The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) and the Bar Human Rights Committee of England & Wales (BHRC) have issued an open letter to United Kingdom Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, in support of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) urging Sri Lankan authorities to commence ‘an open and genuine dialogue with peaceful protesters, human rights defenders and civil society’ to promote the rule of law as the economic crisis and unrest deepens in Sri Lanka.
Reports indicate that to date nine people have been killed and more than 200 people have been injured in Sri Lanka during anti-government protests.
The below letter calls on the UK Government to defend human rights and democracy in Sri Lanka.
Dear Foreign Secretary,
We are writing on behalf of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England & Wales (BHRC) and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) to raise our concerns about the serious threat to human rights and the rule of law in Sri Lanka, to raise awareness as necessary and seek an inter-governmental response. 
Since gaining independence in 1948 Sri Lanka and Britain have maintained strong ties and mutual respect. Britain’s diplomatic and political intervention at this most troubling of times is needed urgently. Mass protests by the public are intensifying and calls are being made for the resignations of both the President and the Prime Minister, and indeed, there is a breakdown of confidence in the leadership being provided by Parliament as a whole.
Britain must send a firm message defending democracy, human rights and openness, and supporting those working towards those objectives. The Sri Lankan government must be urged to commence an open and genuine dialogue with peaceful protesters, human rights defenders and civil society on political reforms. There is strong evidence that Sri Lanka is not currently a functioning democracy. 
We draw your attention to the following in particular:
We look forward to hearing from you on the steps being taken by the British Government to respond to the serious break down of Parliamentary process, the rule of law and human rights violations in Sri Lanka. We would be happy to arrange a meeting between you, and your official, and members of the BHRC and IBAHRI, as appropriate, for a private discussion on these issues.
 Please note this is a public letter and will be published on our website.
 On 7 April 2022 the Bar Association of Sri Lanka issued a statement raising serious governance issues within Parliament (Government and Opposition) which were obstructing proper responses to the intensifying crisis including food shortages and power outages. The Opposition finally moved for a vote of no-confidence in Parliament on 6 May 2022 which failed to garner the majority vote needed to succeed.
 On 25 March 2022 BASL filed two fundamental rights applications in the Supreme Court as ‘People of Sri Lanka’ seeking remedial orders from the Court citing the right to equality, equal protection of the law and the right to life under the Constitution, and the real and grave threat to law and order, and the rule of law.
 On 19 April 2022 a group styling themselves ‘Direction Sri Lanka, Independent Professionals for the Nation’ issued a statement with proposals in view of the escalating situation leading to a potential breakdown in the rule of law and a state of anarchy, and immediate action to be taken within the Constitution including the resignation of the President, and Prime Minister.
 Para 24, Report of the UNHCHR Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, OHCHR Report February 2021, A HRC/46/20
 GANHRI Sub-Committee on Accreditation Report – October 2021, December 2021, page 31 www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/NHRI/GANHRI/SCA-Report-October-2021_E.pdf.
 BHRC and IBAHRI issued a joint statement on 5 March 2021 [https://barhumanrights.org.uk/sri-lanka-accountability-for-past-human-rights-violations-and-adequacy-of-domestic-mechanisms/] setting out our concerns.
Stephen Cragg QC
Chair, Bar Human Rights Committee of England & Wales
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC
Director, International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
END OF THE LETTER
Notes to the Editor
The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.
The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for the administration of justice, fair practice, and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.
For further information, please contact: the IBA Human Rights Institute at IBAHRI@int-bar.org
Website page link for this news release:
Short link: tinyurl.com/2p88y8m9
Full link: www.ibanet.org/IBAHRI-and-BHRC-raise-concerns-about-threats-to-human-rights-in-Sri-Lanka-in-letter-to-UK-Foreign-Secretary