Nov 14, Geneva: A United Nations expert today expressed serious concerns over the intimidation and attacks against Sri Lanka's judges and urged the Sri Lankan government to reconsider the impeachment of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, in a statement today expressed serious concerns about reported intimidation and attacks against judges and judicial officers, and warned that they might form part of a pattern of attacks, threats reprisals and interference in the independence of the justice system in Sri Lanka.
"I urge the Sri Lanka Government to take immediate and adequate measures to ensure the physical and mental integrity of members of the judiciary and to allow them to perform their professional duties without any restrictions, improper influences, pressures, threats or interferences, in line with the country’s international human rights obligations," Ms. Knaul said in her statement.
Most cases of attacks and interference against the judiciary in Sri Lanka are not genuinely investigated, and perpetrators are not held to account, reports received by the independent human rights expert had attested.
Ms. Knaul expressed her apprehension with the procedure launched in the Sri Lankan parliament to impeach the Chief Justice on 1 November 2012.
A parliamentary select committee comprising 11 lawmakers both from the government and opposition appointed to hear the charges against the Chief Justice commenced its investigation today (November 14).
The Special Rapporteur in her statement underscored that irremovability of judges as one of the main pillars guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary and said only in exceptional circumstances may this principle be transgressed.
"Judges may be dismissed only on serious grounds of misconduct or incompetence, after a procedure that complies with due process and fair trial guarantees and that also provides for an independent review of the decision," she stressed. "The misuse of disciplinary proceedings as a reprisals mechanism against independent judges is unacceptable."
In her view, the procedure for the removal of judges of the Supreme Court set out in article 107 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka allows the Parliament to exercise considerable control over the judiciary and is therefore incompatible with both the principle of separation of power and article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
"I urge the authorities to reconsider the impeachment of Chief Justice Bandaranayake and ensure that any disciplinary procedure that she might have to undergo is in full compliance with the fundamental principles of due process and fair trial," the UN Special Rapporteur added.