Jan 18, Geneva: The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressing her deep concern over the impeachment and removal of Sri Lanka's Chief Justice has said that the Sri Lankan government's action "further eroded the rule of law in the country".
In the High Commissioner's view the impeachment is a gross interference in the independence of the judiciary and a calamitous setback for the rule of law in Sri Lanka, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville said Friday at a press briefing in Geneva.
Pillay, who is a strong critic of Sri Lankan government's human rights record, has said that the impeachment could also set back efforts for accountability and reconciliation.
She has viewed the impeachment of Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake as a "flawed process" which has been ruled as unconstitutional by the country's highest court.
"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," the spokesman said.
The government has defended its actions saying that the entire impeachment process followed the Constitution and a parliamentary committee, appointed to probe the charges against Dr. Bandaranayake according to the powers given to the parliament under the Constitution, found the former Chief Justice guilty of misconduct.
Commenting on the newly appointed Chief Justice Mohan Peiris, Colville said the former Attorney-General and Legal Advisor to the Cabinet as a member of the delegations to the UN Human Rights Council has 'vigorously ' defended Sri Lanka's position before the HRC other human rights mechanisms.
"This raises obvious concerns about his independence and impartiality, especially when handling allegations of serious human rights violations by the authorities," the spokesman said.
"We are also concerned that the impeachment process has caused bitter divisions within Sri Lanka, and that it sends an ominous signal about the Government's commitment to accountability and reconciliation. It flies in the face of the strong calls by the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission, and by leaders of Sri Lanka's civil society and legal profession, to rebuild the rule of law which has been badly eroded by decades of conflict and human rights violations," Colville remarked.
The Spokesman said they have received reports from the Independent Bar of Sri Lanka of a series of death threats, acts of intimidation and even a couple of reported murder attempts against lawyers who have been supporting Chief Justice Bandaranayake, and the rulings of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal on her case.
According to the Spokesman, the High Commissioner will be issuing a report on Sri Lanka at the February-March session of the Human Rights Council, focusing on the engagement of UN mechanisms in support of the accountability and reconciliation processes.