SRI LANKA: Lawyer and human rights defender Kumaravadivel Guruparan, prevented from practicing his profession as a lawyer at the request of the Sri Lankan army
Kumaravadivel Guruparan is a lawyer and human rights defender in Sri Lanka. He is the founder and executive director of the Adayalam Center for Policy Research (human rights organization) based in Jaffna and head of the law department at the University of Jaffna since September 2011.
As a human rights lawyer, he defends victims of human rights violations, vulnerable people and poor communities.
He is involved in high-profile legal cases, some of which aim to hold the Sri Lankan army accountable for crimes, including extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of civilians in the North and East of the country. He has recently been threatened and intimidated.
Indeed, Kumaravadivel Guruparan was targeted by the Sri Lankan army and intelligence services as part of its representation of victims in the Navatkuli habeas corpus case, linked to the enforced disappearance of 24 young Tamils in military detention in 1996. On August 1st, 2019, at a hearing, Sinhalese speaking plainclothes men photographed lawyers pleading before the Chavahacheri Court of First Instance. In this case, these acts appeared to be intended to intimidate lawyers. One of the men was then getting into a car belonging to the Deputy Prosecutor General, representing the Sri Lankan army.
“We will soon write a letter of complaint to the Attorney General, a tweeté l’avocat. “Such behaviour on the part of a senior official of the AG’s dept is completely unacceptable and is a reminder of how deeply entrenched the Attorney General Department is with the security sector.
On August 7th 2019, three officials of the Counter-Terrorism Investigation Department visited the Adayalam Centre in Jaffna and requested access to the organization’s personnel files and work plans. Other lawyers working on this case have also been harassed and intimidated.
On November 9th 2019, Kumaravadivel Guruparan was informed by the Council of the University of Jaffna that he would no longer be allowed to practice as a lawyer before the Sri Lankan courts. The decision was taken by the University Grants Commission (UGC) at the request of the Sri Lankan army and constitutes an act of reprisal against its human rights work and an attempt to prevent him from pursuing in court the defence of his files on crimes committed by the military.
These acts of threats and intimidation are intensifying in the run-up to the presidential elections scheduled for 16 November 2019 in Sri Lanka.
The OIAD expresses its deep concern about the use of disciplinary measures by the Sri Lankan authorities against lawyer Kumaravadivel Guruparan when he legitimately exercises his functions.
The OIAD calls on the Sri Lankan authorities to comply with the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers adopted by the United Nations in 1990, including that:
- “Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference” (Principle No. 16);
- “Disciplinary proceedings against lawyers shall be brought before an impartial disciplinary committee established by the legal profession, before an independent statutory authority, or before a court, and shall be subject to an independent judicial review” (Principle No. 28).