Lawyers forced to cancel plans in Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan government has revoked visas for speakers who were planning to attend an international meeting of lawyers and diplomats, forcing the meeting's cancellation, the New Zealand Law Society says.

Last week's events are further demonstration of the true state of affairs in Sri Lanka, society president Chris Moore says in a statement. 

“The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute and the Sri Lanka Bar Association were forced to cancel their planned joint conference ahead of the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting last week,” he says.

More than 200 lawyers and diplomats were registered to attend the joint conference to discuss the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in the Commonwealth.

The Sri Lankan government revoked visas for speakers going to the meeting. This forced its cancellation.

“The New Zealand Law Society joins the International Bar Association in condemning the continued refusal of the Sri Lankan government to recognise human rights and the rule of law,” Mr Moore says.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, visited Sri Lanka in August and later expressed her concern at erosion of the rule of law and the lack of explanation for the disappearances of many people, according to the Law Society press release.

In January this year, the Chief Justice was dismissed by the President two days after the Sri Lankan parliament voted to impeach her. There is strong evidence that this was prompted by dissatisfaction with a number of decisions by the Supreme Court, the Law Society says.