‘Refused’ visa, Verma-led jurists’ visit to Lanka off

Former Chief Justice of India J S Verma, who was to visit Sri Lanka as head of a high-level international fact-finding delegation, whose mandate was to probe and prepare a report about the recent impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake by that country's Parliament, has cancelled his visit, with reports indicating that the Sri Lankan government has refused visas to the jurists.

According to reports emanating from Colombo, the decision to prevent the fact-finding team's visit to Colombo and interacting with the legal fraternity and leaders of the opposition was taken by the Sri Lankan government at the highest level.

The impeachment of Chief Justice Bandaranayake at the behest of the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, which had levelled allegations of corruption against her, has not gone down well with the lawyers, many of who are still protesting the questionable action of the government.

The International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), organising the visit, has claimed in a press statement that the "delegation has been forced to postpone a planned visit to Sri Lanka to assess the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary due to the last-minute withdrawal of permission to enter the country".

"A visa had been issued to one member of the delegation on 18th January 2013 and was revoked on 29th January 2013, while approval to enter the country was suspended in the cases of other delegates on 29th and 30th January 2013," the IBAHRI statement said.

"The high-level delegation had intended to conduct meetings and consult a wide diversity of stakeholders in regard to the development of the legal profession, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in Sri Lanka, including members of the legal profession, government, media and civil society. The IBAHRI has expressed its serious concern to the Sri Lankan High Commission in London regarding the revocation and suspension of entry approval for its high-level delegates and looks forward to working together with the relevant authorities in ensuring a speedy and satisfactory resolution."

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