New initiative to strengthen Sri Lanka’s Criminal Justice system

11 Jan 2013

image Head Table (from left): Additional Solicitor General, Mr. Suhada Gamlath, Head of the Criminal Division of the AG’s Department, Mrs. Malkanthi Wickramasinghe, Secretary to the Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration, H. E. John Rankin, High Commissioner of the United Kingdom in Sri Lanka, Honourable Palitha Fernando, PC, Attorney General, Ms. Razina Bilgrami, Country Director, a.i., UNDP Sri Lanka, and Solicitor General, Mr. Y. J. W. Wijayatilake, PC

UNDP’s Equal Access to Justice Project, implemented by the Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration, launched a new initiative on Thursday 10 January aimed at strengthening the Rule of Law in Sri Lanka by enhancing the efficacy of the criminal justice system.  The initiative which is supported with financial assistance from the United Kingdom, will strengthen the knowledge and skills of approximately 85 officers of the Criminal Division of the Attorney General’s Department.

Speaking during the launch, Honourable Palitha Fernando, PC, Attorney General, explained, “People of this country look to the Attorney General’s Department to ensure the perpetrators of crime are held to account. Therefore, it is for that purpose that we have designed this programme, to see that the skills of the State Counsel are further developed, so that they can perform their duties with confidence.”

Expressing his thoughts, H. E. John Rankin, High Commissioner of the United Kingdom in Sri Lanka, noted that enhancing the capacity of officials of the AG’s Department can play a key role in further developing the stability of post-conflict Sri Lanka and rebuilding the court structures in the North and East. “If people, including Sri Lankans and investors, have confidence in the effective application of laws, the ability to prevent impunity and of equality before the law – this will increase the long term prosperity and stability of Sri Lanka,” he added.

The trainings will be delivered by in-house resource persons from the Attorney General’s Department and will cover themes including The concept of a Fair Trial; Examination of Witnesses; Effective Prosecution of cases of Murder; The Law , Ethics and Best Practices pertaining to the Institution of Criminal Proceedings; Effective Prosecution of cases of Rape, Grave Sexual Abuse and Sexual Harassment.

As noted by Mrs. Malkanthi Wickramasinghe, Secretary to the Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration, “enhancing the capacity and professionalism of officers of the criminal division would also be an important step towards the effective implementation of recommendation 9.212 of the LLRC report” that proposes setting up units of the Attorney General’s Department in the Provinces to guide and advise the police regarding criminal investigations, prosecutions and other matters touching upon the criminal justice system.

UNDP’s Equal Access to Justice Project has been in operation since 2004 with an annual budget of approximately $1.5m. Working with a range of partners including the Ministry of Justice, Prisons Department, Registrar General, Judicial Services Commission, Bar Association, Legal Aid Commission and selected NGOs, the project’s specific niche lies in supporting justice and related systems so that they work for those who are poor and disadvantaged. UNDP’s Country Director, Ms. Razina Bilgrami, added that, moving forward, “UNDP hopes that the Project can be a key instrument of support to the Government in its implementation of the recommendations included in the National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and the Plan of Action for the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission Recommendations”.