Seminar for lawyers in Sri Lanka’s Southern Province successfully concluded

The seminar was organised in partnership with the Bar Association of Sri Lanka

From 21 – 24 September 2021, the Max Planck Foundation hosted the second seminar in a six-part seminar series for lawyers in Sri Lanka. It addressed international human rights law with a specific focus on select economic, social, and cultural rights.

The seminar commenced with a presentation on the sources of international human rights law and the particularities of economic, social, and cultural rights. Following this, the participants were engaged in a session about strategic litigation. Both these initial presentations contextualised the later discussions about substantive rights. Four subsets of economic, social, and cultural rights were explored during the seminar. Firstly, the rights to just and favourable conditions of work and to social security were explored from both an international and domestic perspective. Secondly, land was discussed as a critical enabling factor for various rights including the rights of women and indigenous peoples. Thirdly, cultural rights were examined with a specific focus on their relationship with civil and political rights such as language rights. Finally, the right to adequate housing was discussed with reference to issues such as forced eviction and quality of housing.

On the final day of the seminar, participants were asked to examine several factual scenarios and devise strategic and human rights-based approaches to addressing possible injustices described therein. This exercise led to robust and thought-provoking discussions about the relationship between international human rights law and the Sri Lankan domestic legal system.

Foundation research fellows were joined by two Sri Lankan co-trainers throughout the seminar: Gunasiri Wijemanne and Samanthie Jayamanna who lent invaluable local expertise to the programme and are previous participants in the Foundation’s Training-of-Trainers activity for senior lawyers in Sri Lanka.

The seminar was opened and closed by the Honourable Secretary of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, Rajeev T. Amarasuriya, who emphasised the importance of such programmes for both junior and senior legal practitioners. Four further Seminars on this topic will be convened for lawyers located in provinces around Sri Lanka over the course of 2021 and 2022 and form part of the project “Advancing Institutional Capacity in the Sri Lankan Justice System” funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.