A Short Reference to the Recommendations made by the Asian Human Rights Commission and Vigil Lanka Movement on Legal Reforms:
Dealing With Delays
* Use of electronic communications for all the work in courts; Provisions for use of tape recorders to record evidence, which can then be transcribed; (At present one of the contestant occurrences leading
to delays is absence of stenographers). Use of these means requires amendments to some laws.
* Training of judges and court staff to use these devises effectively.
* Establishing co-ordinating systems between higher courts and lower courts, the relevant police departments and courts and prisons to make relationships more efficient.
* Increase of courts and tribunals to deal with over load of work
1. Need for an independent Prosecutor, due to the unsatisfactory nature of present day prosecutions by
the Attorney-General’s department and police. The Attorney-General officially is the Governments
lawyer and can for various reasons fail or refuse to prosecute cases. For example, the over 30,000
2. The need for legal supervision of police carying out criminal investigations, as police due to lack of
training or other reasons often abuse their powers.
3. Creating mechanisms to implement the Sri Lankan ‘Convention Against Torture and other Cruel,
Inhuman or degrading Treatment or Punishment Act?(Act.No. 22, 1994). This Act has been passed, but there has been no prosecution under this law as yet.
4. Systems to implement other laws relating to human rights. Laws exist on paper but are not implemented.
* Need to change the implementation machinery
Independence of Judiciary
* The need to improve the quality of judiciary: legal education, exposure to best practices of the outside
world; knowledge and sensitivity to human rights
* Review of appointments and promotions and disciplinary procedures processes
* Need to create public confidence in judiciary
Gender and Ethnic Sensitivity
* Changes in laws to achieve this
* Special education, trainings and exposure to best practices from other countries.
The issues regarding the need for and the problems around legal reforms were discussed during 4 consultations facilitated by the Asia Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) / Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on human rights-related law reforms. The proceedings and conclusions of those discussions are published in four booklets and a report available
from ALRC / AHRC.
* Human Rights Related Legal Reforms in Sri Lanka, (Workshop 6-8 January, 1996, Bangalore, India)
* Social Justice and the Judiciary, (Seminar/Workshop 29 Nov.-1 Dec 1996, Sri Lanka)
* Speedy and Just Settlement of Labour Disputes, (Seminar 31 July-2 Aug 1998, Sri Lanka)
* Police Reforms, (Consultation 7-11 April, 1999, Bangalore, India)
* Lesson Series No.1- HR School : Human Rights Related Legal Reforms. (available on web-site: www.hrschool.org)
* ICCPR: [http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/a_ccpr.htm]
In particular Article 14:
1. All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law. The press and the public may be excluded from all or part of a trial for reasons of morals, public order (ordre public) or national security in a democratic society, or when the interest of the private lives of the parties so requires, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice; but any judgement rendered in a criminal case or in a suit at law shall be made public except where the interest of juvenile persons otherwise requires or the proceedings concern matrimonial disputes or the guardianship of children.
2. Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved
guilty according to law.
3. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone shall be entitled to the following
minimum guarantees, in full equality:
(a) To be informed promptly and in detail in a language which he understands of the nature and cause of the charge against him;
(b) To have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence and to communicate with counsel of his own choosing;
(c) To be tried without undue delay;
(d) To be tried in his presence, and to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own
choosing; to be informed, if he does not have legal assistance, of this right; and to have legal assistance assigned to him, in any case where the interests of justice so require, and without payment by him in any such case if he does not have sufficient means to pay for it;
(e) To examine, or have examined, the witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;
(f) To have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court;
(g) Not to be compelled to testify against himself or to confess guilt.
4. In the case of juvenile persons, the procedure shall be such as will take account of their age and the desirability of promoting their rehabilitation.
5. Everyone convicted of a crime shall have the right to his conviction and sentence being reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law.
6. When a person has by a final decision been convicted of a criminal offence and when subsequently his conviction has been reversed or he has been pardoned on the ground that a new or newly discovered fact shows conclusively that there has been a miscarriage of justice, the person who has suffered punishment as a result of such conviction shall be compensated according to law, unless it is proved that the non-disclosure of the unknown
fact in time is wholly or partly attributable to him.
7. No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he has already been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country.