Sri Lanka: Impeachment motion against the Chief Justice further deteriorates the rule of law and independence of judiciary
7 November 2012 10:40 am
(Bangkok, 6 November 2012) – Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), a regional human rights organization representing 49 non-governmental organizations across Asia, expressed its grave concern at the pending impeachment motion filed against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayke, in the Parliament of Sri Lanka. The move to impeach the Chief Justice was made on 1 November 2012 by the country’s ruling party MPs handing the motion to Parliamentary Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, a brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. This came on the heels of several other disturbing incidents that have pointed to intimidation of judges and lawyers as well as political interference in the work of the judiciary.
The first was the attack of the Mannar court premises on 19 July 2012 by a mob allegedly instigated by Minister Rishard Badurdeen who also reportedly made threatening telephone calls to Mannar Magistrate and Additional District Judge A. Judeson over a disputed ruling. The second incident was the physical assault on Magistrate Manjula Tilakaratna, Secretary of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), following his statement of 16 September 2012 alleging political interference from the executive on the JSC that is mandated to appoint, suspend and transfer judges and magistrates. Magistrate Tilakaratna received death threats since then, and on 7 October 2012 he was threatened with a gun and beaten up by four unidentified men. The incident led to protests by members of the legal community throughout Sri Lanka on 8 October 2012, however, no arrests of those perpetrators have been made so far.
Tensions between the government and the judiciary have been further on the rise over the rulings of the Supreme Court on the Divi Neguma Bill which has generated a great deal of political controversy including allegations that the Bill seeks to concentrate power relating to rural development and land use in the hands of Economic Development Minister Basil Rasapaksa, a brother of the President.
“We see this impeachment motion as a further step in the deterioration of the rule of law and the independence of judiciary in Sri Lanka, both fundamental to the preservation of democratic norms and protection of human rights in any society. FORUM-ASIA strongly feels that these incidents and processes only undermine public confidence in the judiciary and affirm the climate of impunity that prevails on the island,” said Yap Swee Seng, executive director of FORUM-ASIA.
“It is with our deep regret that the Sri Lankan government did not accept any recommendation on the issue of the independence of judiciary at the yesterday’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group session in Geneva. We time and again call on the government to end its interference with the judicial process and take all necessary measures to protect members of the judiciary from attacks and intimidation, signaling its will to ensure independence and integrity of the judiciary,” added Yap Swee Seng.
For further inquiries, please contact:
- Ms. Giyoun Kim, FORUM-ASIA, Deputy Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
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