The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) strongly condemns the Sri Lankan government’s decision to deny entry to Sri Lanka to senior international figures, including a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, Justice J S Verma.
Dr Mark S Ellis, Executive Director of the International Bar Association stated: ‘It is disappointing that the Sri Lankan authorities have missed the opportunity to cooperate on a visit by respected foreign members of the legal system. It will suggest to the international community that the Sri Lankan authorities are fearful of having independent eyes on the issues of interest to the legal profession.’
The IBAHRI wholly refutes the assertion made by the Sri Lankan External Affairs Ministry that information contained in the online visa applications was inaccurate.
The Sri Lanka online visa application process provides four options to indicate the ‘purpose of visit’. Option one was selected, to ‘participate in conferences, workshops and seminars’, the category which best fits the intentions of the delegation, which were to hold a range of consultations and seminars with various participants. The alternative options were to participate in ‘art, music and dance’, ‘business meetings and negotiations’, and ‘short training courses’. The online visa application process does not allow applicants to provide further information on the purpose of their trip.
A visa had been issued to one member of the delegation, facilitated through the relevant national diplomatic channels on 18 January 2013 but was revoked on 29 January. Approval to enter the country was suspended on 29 and 30 January in the cases of the other delegates, who had applied and been approved for entry to Sri Lanka through the online application process on 21 January 2013.
The visit was planned from 1–10 February 2013 to meet members of the legal profession, and representatives of government, media and civil society.
Following the suspension and revocation of the visas the IBAHRI was assured that the Sri Lankan High Commission in London would cooperate in the investigation and resolution of the matter. To date, no further information has been forthcoming. However, we remain hopeful that the Sri Lankan government will wish to remain open to international engagement and will reinstate the visits accordingly.