US “very” concerned about state of judiciery

The United States Embassy in Sri Lanka says it remains very concerned about the state of the Sri Lankan judiciary and the impeachment process of the Chief Justice.

“We urge that the Government of Sri Lanka and the Parliamentary Select Committee investigating the Chief Justice ensure any investigation be conducted transparently, guarantee due process, and is conducted in accordance with the rule of law,” the Embassy said in a short statement today.

Meanwhile the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said the impeachment process against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake ignores international standards and practice.

The ICJ urges the government of Sri Lanka to take immediate steps to uphold the independence of the judiciary and adhere to international standards and practice on the removal of judges.

Reportedly the Chief Justice has been denied the right to cross-examine potential witnesses and has not been provided full disclosure of the allegations against her.

The Parliamentary Select Committee has also denied the request for a public hearing and prohibited observers from attending.

“Parliament is pushing ahead with an impeachment process that fails to adhere to fundamental principles of due process and fair trial,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia Pacific Director. “The Chief Justice’s impeachment is part of a relentless campaign waged by the Rajapaksa Government to weaken the judiciary. An independent judiciary is the principle check on the exercise of executive and legislative powers – vital to the functioning of a healthy democracy.”

As recalled by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers in a statement last month, international standards require that judges be removed only in exceptional circumstances involving incapacity or gross misconduct.

A cornerstone of judicial independence is that tenure of judges be secure.

“Any process for removal must comply with all of the guarantees of due process and fair trial afforded under international law, notably the right to an independent and impartial hearing,” Zarifi added.