Firing of Sri Lanka chief justice erodes rule of law: UN

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January 19, 2013

The UN's human rights office has said that the impeachment and sacking of Sri Lanka's chief justice has further eroded the rule of law in the country. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay was "deeply concerned" by the chief justice's removal.

January 19, 2013

The UN's human rights office has said that the impeachment and sacking of Sri Lanka's chief justice has further eroded the rule of law in the country. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay was "deeply concerned" by the chief justice's removal.

The impeachment and sacking of Sri Lanka's chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake has further eroded the rule of law in the country, the UN's human rights office lamented Friday.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay was "deeply concerned" by Bandaranayake's removal, her spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.

"The removal of the chief justice through a flawed process… is, in the High Commissioner's view, gross interference in the independence of the judiciary and a calamitous setback for the rule of law in Sri Lanka," he said.

Bandaranayake, the first woman to hold Sri Lanka's highest judicial post, was sacked by President Mahinda Rajapakse on Sunday two days after parliament voted to impeach her.

The government launched the impeachment in November after court decisions went against the government of Rajapakse, who has tightened his hold on power since crushing Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009 to end a decades-long ethnic war.

Among other rulings, Bandaranayake stalled a bill that sought to grant greater political and financial power to the president's youngest brother Basil, who is the economic development minister.

Despite a supreme court ruling that the parliament had violated the constitution, and a chorus of international criticism and threats of a legal challenge, Rajapakse swiftly filled the vacancy Tuesday by appointing the government's senior legal adviser Mohan Peiris as her successor.

"Sri Lanka has a long history of abuse of executive power, and this latest step appears to strip away one of the last and most fundamental of the independent checks and balances, and should ring alarm bells for all Sri Lankans," Colville said.

He also voiced concern that the impeachment process had "caused bitter divisions within Sri Lanka, and that it sends an ominous signal about the government's commitment to accountability and reconciliation."

The move, he said, flew in the face of strong commitment within the country to rebuild the rule of law after decades of devastating conflict.

Colville also voiced concern at reports from Sri Lanka's bar association that lawyers who had supported Bandaranayake were facing "death threats, acts of intimidation and even a couple of reported murder attempts."

Bandaranayake herself told reporters on Tuesday that she feared for her life and for the safety of her husband and son.


Courtesy: AFP