William and Mary Law School

We the People (of Sri Lanka)

After over a week of researching, I can now say நான் இலங்கை குற்றவியல் சட்டம் தெரியும்! For those of us not fluent in Tamil, that means I know Sri Lankan criminal law!

I have been working on IBJ's DefenseWiki website, which is basically Wikipedia for international criminal justice systems, and finally completed a draft for the Sri Lanka page. I read through Sri Lanka's Constitution; Evidence Code; and Code of Criminal Procedure, the longest PDF document I have ever had the pleasure of downloading. The black letter law was as tedious and convoluted as any American law, but once I got through those documents, I had to research how the law is applied on the ground. That's when the frustration began.

Sri Lanka actually has an admirable criminal justice system with a right to notice of charges, freedom from torture, and a right to medical care in prison. Unfortunately for Sri Lankans, good on paper isn't good enough. I read testimony of unexplained police abductions of civilians, pictures of a suspect's mutilated body as a result of "enhanced interrogation," and compiled data on severe overcrowding in Sri Lankan prisons. But hey, at least it's good on paper! Seriously though, all I can say is wow. It's like the civil war never ended. How can such a strong constitution produce such an awful criminal justice system? I have a feeling I'll be asking that question all summer.