Foundation concludes workshop for lawyers from the Northern Province of Sri Lanka

Organised in Jaffna from 03 – 05 May 2024, the workshop explored human rights and lawyering in times of crisis.

In collaboration with the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, the workshop was attended by twenty-five lawyers, practising predominantly before the courts of first instance. It highlighted the relevance of human rights to their legal reasoning and practice and examined methods through which a rights-based approach could be integrated into their daily work.

Given Sri Lanka’s recent experiences with social, economic and political crisis, the workshop started by introducing participants to a theoretical framework through which to think about “crisis” and its impact on their work. It then proceeded to define a rights-based approach to lawyering and justify its use in Sri Lanka drawing from constitutional provisions and jurisprudence from the superior courts. Participants were introduced to seven distinct ways that rights might be advanced in their reasoning and practice including by drawing from international human rights law, highlighting Supreme Court precedent on fundamental rights, and arguing for the protection of common law rights and statutory rights. In particular, the potential of the statutory rights contained in the Protection of and Assistance to Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act of 2023, was examined. Lawyers also engaged in discussions of practical skills, including the crafting of persuasive oral and written arguments, and explored how to engage ethically with clients and society at large.

The programme was delivered by Foundation Research Fellows and Consultants in collaboration with local experts. Mr Ghazali Hussain, senior attorney-at-law and former member of the National Authority for the Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses provided valuable insights into statutory rights and the promise and challenges of the legal regime created to protect victims and witnesses of crime. Mr K Purantharan, a senior attorney-at-law from the Jaffna bar facilitated a session which contextualised the workshop’s contents within the realities of lawyering in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province.

This was the third and final workshop on this topic convened by the Foundation in terms of its current project: Strengthening the Rule of Law and Democratic Principles in Sri Lanka in Times of Crisis’, funded by the German Foreign Office.