Sri Lanka

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Although the 26-year civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has drawn to a violent close, the country still suffers from what the Asian Human Rights Commission has described as a "situation of abysmal lawlessness." While on paper Sri Lanka boasts a modern constitution protecting fundamental human rights, a sophisticated statutory regime that protects the rights of the accused and has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a track record of corruption and a lack of judicial accountability have undermined the effectiveness of the Sri Lankan criminal justice system. To date, there have been over 30,000 unresolved disappearances in the country and nearly 50% of all prisoners are un-convicted, pre-trial detainees.

Sri Lanka has a very limited legal aid system and is without the service of any type of public defenders office. With just a police report, the accused can be sent to prison as 'remand prisoners' where they are held as police conduct their criminal investigations. In many cases these pre-trial detainees are held for a matter of years while they wait for their day in court. All too often, the accused are unable to pay their costly legal fees, cannot afford to make bail and lack the resources to find sureties to secure their release.

See Criminal Justice Systems Around the World


  • Sri Lanka ranks 19th in the world in prison overcrowding with an occupancy rate of 193.2%
  • Sri Lanka has a total prison population of nearly 31,000 persons.
  • Of the entire prison population in Sri Lanka, 48.7% are pre-trial detainees known as "remand prisoners" who share facilities with convicted felons while awaiting trial.
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