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The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) observed that the Attorney General and his Department had failed to issue clear and proper guidelines for the investigation and prosecution of crimes.

The AHRC alleged that no specific guidelines for the investigation of and the prosecution of serious human rights violations, including torture, and violations of international human rights law, had been laid down.

“For all appearances, on matters of public law, the Attorney General’s Department acts not as having a role in the protection of the rights of the people but as representing the State, however, repressive the State may be,” Director of Policy and Programmes at the AHRC and the Asian Legal Resource Centre, Basil Fernando explained, adding that the Attorney General’s Department acts more like a defender of repression rather than one acting for the protection of individual rights.

The Attorney General has also failed to ensure that his Department does not contribute to the delays in the Courts by issuing instructions to the State Counsels to avoid delays, he added.

The new Government has not done enough to correct the damage done to the image of the institution due to serious politicization and to raise the status of this Department which plays the role of the prosecutor, Fernando mentioned.

It is time for the Government and the Attorney General’s Department itself, to take the necessary initiatives for reform to prevent the Department from becoming an obstacle to the achievement of the rule of law, he remarked.

“During the tenure of the previous Government, the Department abandoned the earlier held position regarding not appearing on behalf of public officers who were respondents in fundamental rights applications relating to torture and ill treatment, before the Supreme Court. The Department officers not only began to appear for the defence of these officers, they also often prevented the issuing of leave to proceed in fundamental rights applications by providing information which were bias, even before leave to proceed had been issued,” he said.

He added that the applicants in these cases had no way to contradict the information provided by some of the officers of the Department as the applicants did not have any notice of the information provided by these officers to the Courts.

“It is acknowledged that the Department does not have the adequate number of State Counsels and it is often said that the number available is less than half of the required number,” he said. “One of the results of there being an inadequate number of State Counsels is that it also leads to rather unprincipled forms of settlement of cases purely for the sake of the speedy ending of cases.”  (RJ)