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Sri Lanka Table of Contents

Sri Lanka


Founded on the principles of British law, the Sri Lankan criminal justice system underwent major changes in the 1970s as the government attempted to cope with the challenges posed by both Sinhalese and Tamil insurgencies. Through a series of new laws, constitutional provisions, and emergency regulations, Sri Lanka acted to enlarge the legal powers of the police and armed forces and to increase the capacity of the courts to deal with the growing number of cases. These changes were at the expense of individual civil liberties, and the new powers of the state evoked strong criticism from all ethnic communities. The most significant changes affected the rules of search, arrest, and seizure and the procedures by which criminal cases were investigated and tried. Through all this flux, the one element that remained relatively constant was the Penal Code, established in the late nineteenth century by the British colonial government. Although various individual provisions were amended to suit changing social conditions, in 1988 the general classification and definition of crime and punishment set forth in the code remained the basis of criminal law.

Data as of October 1988