In times of serious repression such as the situation that Sri Lanka is faced with now, the courts are the citizen’s last resort. If the citizens are intimidated from seeking redress from the courts the people lose even that last resort. Therefore, protecting the people rights to have access to court is of great importance. There have been attempts to misuse contempt of court proceedings to intimidate citizens; the most famous incident being the case of Michael Anthony Emmanuel (Tony) Fernando. Under these circumstances to fight against such intimidation and demand the speedy enactment of laws to prevent the recurrence of that situation is of the greatest importance. The human rights movement should make this a priority among their concerns.
The absence of a law relating to contempt to court has remained a matter of concern in Sri Lanka. Due to serious anxieties arising from the problems created by this absence, the Bar association of Sri Lanka appointed a committee to draft a law relating to this matter. This committee completed its task and a draft law was submitted to the parliament. However, despite all efforts taken in this regard, no action has been taken by the government to bring this draft law to the parliament.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) has expressed its view on two Communications filed by two Sri Lankan citizens and recommended to the government to take speedy action to enact a law relating to contempt of court and to prevent future violations of citizens’ rights by abuse of proceedings under contempt of court charges. However, the government of Sri Lanka has yet to comply with the recommendations of the UNHRC.
There is much fear among the litigants and lawyers who have been subjected to unnecessary problems similar to the ones faced by the two authors of these Communications to the UNHRC. There are also fears of a similar nature among journalists who report on court cases and commentators on legal matters. Such fears have a chilling effect on the legal process as well as freedom of expression.
Therefore, there is an urgent need to bring about legislation on contempt of court, similar to those already adopted in India and many other nations.
The Asian Human Rights Commission urges you to sign this petition and support the campaign for bringing about speedy legislation on the contempt of court law in Sri Lanka.
See the Online petition at: http://campaigns.ahrchk.net/contemptofcourt/
# # #
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.