In an astonishing move, it was reported this morning that the Government of Sri Lanka had blocked both the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul, and her predecessor Param Cumaraswamy, from entering the country. Despite assurances from Sri Lankan High Commissioner Chris Nonis earlier in April that they would be welcomed, the recent revocation of their visas suggests that the regime is now determined to repress critical discussion concerning the unconstitutional impeachment of the Chief Justice that took place earlier this year.


Gabriela Knaul

The pair were due to participate in a conference co-hosted by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka and the International Bar Association Human Rights Initiative entitled ‘Making Commonwealth Values a Reality: the Rule of Law and the Independence of the Legal profession’, to take place later this month during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Param Cumaraswamy
The incident is the latest sign that the Sri Lanka remains totally averse to engaging constructively with UN institutions, and will surely provide food for thought for UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay as she writes her upcoming report on the country’s co-operation with the United nations, its representatives, and mechanisms in the field of human rights.

Contrary to those such as the Commonwealth Secretary General and the British Foreign Secretary who have repeatedly insisted that the government of Sri Lanka is a willing partner with a sincere commitment to progress, the barring of these two internationally respected individuals makes a total mockery of its duty to uphold freedom of expression and the rule of law.