Sri Lanka - Rule of Law Program

Assessing the Legal Profession

In 2014 through a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Millennium DPI Partners project, ABA ROLI assessed BASL’s capacity and needs using a modified version of ABA ROLI’s Legal Profession Reform Index (LPRI). Based on priority issues that emerged from the LPRI, including the need for improved ethics standards, financial management, access to justice, and communication, ABA ROLI worked with BASL to develop a strategic plan and a corresponding action plan to boost BASL’s internal capacity in those key areas. Through the development of the strategic plan, ABA ROLI engaged three technical experts to work with BASL staff on ethics and professional responsibility, financial sustainability and supporting the role of the CEO at BASL.

Exploring Professional Development Models

Our programming in Sri Lanka has included annual study tours for BASL leadership and other lawyers, with the aim of establishing lasting professional networks. ABA ROLI hosted eleven members of BASL’s executive committee for the first annual study tour that included attendance at the ABA Midyear meeting in Houston, Texas in February 2015. Participants had scheduled meetings to promote the four priority areas raised in the Strategic Plan: continuing legal education (CLE), ethics, research, and advocacy. The ABA Midyear meeting served to showcase how the American Bar Association helps enrich the legal profession in the United States, promote the rule of law, and foster professional responsibility.

ABA ROLI conducted a second Study Tour for eight BASL members in Singapore City, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in September 2015. Malaysia and Singapore were chosen as examples of comparable regionally-based bar associations that match the size and capacity of BASL. This tour included meetings with legal experts, practitioners, bar leaders, and judges who are at the forefront of advocating for the rule of law in their home countries. These meetings were critical to fostering information and experience sharing on the development of an effective and efficient bar association able to serve the needs of its members, remain fiscally viable, and advance justice for all citizens.

The third study tour — held in South Africa in 2016 — included high-ranking government officials, high court judges and other prominent members of BASL as part of the delegation. The delegation conducted meetings with high-level South African government officials, former judges on the Constitutional Court of South Africa, legal aid agencies, leading lawyers and civil society. The study tour focused on methods of improving the legal profession, access to justice and reconciliation methodology, and allowed participants to discover best practices for establishing rule of law in a post-conflict nation.

Combating Corruption

ABA ROLI worked with BASL to combat corruption in Sri Lanka by providing access to international best practices on addressing corruption. ABA ROLI and BASL held a series of events, including a High-Level Dialogue and Benchmarking Practicum, to connect stakeholders and build the capacity of lawyers, justice sector actors and civil society advocates to oversee and promote implementation of anti-corruption initiatives. ABA ROLI also worked with the Law and Society Trust to collect and publish cases of anti-corruption and bribery in Sri Lanka for public access. ABA ROLI provided technical assistance and resources to investigators, prosecutors, the judiciary and CSOs on international legal standards, including the U.N. Convention Against Corruption.

Transitional Justice and Reconciliation

ABA ROLI is committed to supporting the efforts of transitional justice and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. During the BASL study tour in South Africa, ABA ROLI facilitated meetings with the South African Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, National Prosecuting Authority, former members of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee and notable members of the legal community at the forefront of justice in the post-Apartheid government. Through these meetings, the delegation gained insight into the role of the legal profession and justice sector in transitional justice efforts.

Through the Global Initiative for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation — a consortium of nine organizations that respond to the transitional needs of societies emerging from conflict — ABA ROLI is leading the development of a guide on victim participation and the growing importance of informal processes in transitional justice in Sri Lanka. In 2017, ABA ROLI held a workshop in Colombo for local CSOs to inform the guide’s development.

Internet Freedom

ABA ROLI's Internet Freedom program has supported BASL’s program to promote and defend internet freedom in Sri Lanka. In 2017, ABA ROLI and BASL conducted an internet freedom workshop in Colombo entitled “Internet Freedom and Applicable Legal Frameworks in Sri Lanka,” building the capacity of Sri Lankan lawyers to litigate cases and promote fundamental online rights such as freedom of expression and privacy rights. ABA ROLI also supported BASL in conducting a public forum featuring legal experts in Sri Lanka discussing several issues at the heart of internet freedom, such as digital privacy and the online gender gap. During the forum, BASL launched a published study, “Your Rights Online,” which features scholarly research papers discussing internet freedom topics. BASL currently maintains a crowd-sourced blog featuring articles on freedom of expression online submitted by lawyers, academics, CSOs and journalists.