Neelan Tiruchelvam held the degrees of LL.B from the University of Colombo, LL.M and SJD from Harvard University, where he was a lecturer at the Law School. He is the author of a number of publications on Law, Development and Social Justice. He was a Director of both the Law &Society Trust and the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, and Senior Partner of Tiruchelvam Associates, a leading law firm in Sri Lanka.
Dr. Tiruchelvam was a Member of Parliament and a Member of the Select Committees on Constitutional Reform and Standing Orders in 1995. From 1978 –1983 he was a member of the Law Commission appointed by the President to report on all aspects of law reform, and from 1979-1980 was a member of the Presidential Commission on democratic decentralisation and devolution. He has taken part in a number of international election observer missions, including, Chile, Pakistan, Hungary, Bangladesh and Nepal, and also assisted in the evaluation of the draft constitution of Kazakhstan and the review of the constitution-making process in Ethiopia.
In December 1992 he delivered a keynote address at the Conference on Constitutionalism and Democratic Politics in China and in January 1993 delivered a keynote address to the Council of Europe at the Conference on Human Rights at the Dawn of the 21st Century in Strasbourg. He was co-chair of an international evaluation team on the peace structure in South Africa constituted by the National Peace Council and International Alert. Dr. Tiruchelvam delivered the Chandra Soysa Memorial Lecture on “Crisis of Constitutionalism in South Asia”, the Bandaranaike Memorial Lecture in 1992, and the Kanchana Abeypala Memorial Lecture in 1996. Dr. Tiruchelvam was assassinated, on his way to work, by a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suicide bomber in July 1999.