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Commission presses Bar Association to investigate discriminatory practices

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The Commission said it had been informed that Bar Association members in one region had refused to represent Muslim clients.

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has requested the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) to investigate allegations of discriminatory practices by some members of the organisation.

In a letter to BASL President, Kalinga Indatissa P.C., the Commission said it had been informed that Bar Association members in the region of Marawila had refused to appear on behalf of members of Muslims arrested following the Easter Sunday attacks.

In the letter, Commission Chairperson Dr Deepika Udagama said that "all the regular practitioners refused to appear on behalf of six people who were arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act".

"ln fact, when a visiting lawyer had agreed to appear for the limited purpose of requesting bail (the most standard work of a Magistrate's Court Practitioner), the regular practitioners were very hostile to her as well," Dr Udagama added.

She said that some Muslim families are "compelled to seek representation from outside the area at great cost because the regular practitioners of the relevant court are refusing to represent them".

The Commission requested the Bar Association to inquire into and take action against any unprofessional or unethical practices as "such conduct has serious implications for the rule of law".

"While we recognise that many members of the BASL will not resort to such unprofessional and unethical practices, nonetheless it is the bounden duty of the BASL to take necessary action to ensure rectification even where a single member engages in such unethical conduct," Dr Udagama said.

Date: 27 July 2019

Source: Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka

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