UN warns government on impeachment

The United Nations (UN) has warned Sri Lanka saying the impeachment of Chief Justice (CJ) Shirani Bandaranayake could send a negative signal to the international community about Sri Lanka’s commitment to its human rights obligations.

Speaking exclusively to The Sunday Leader, the Special UN Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, said that she does not share the Government’s view that the impeachment process is an internal matter.

“To the contrary, international human rights law is very clear. States must respect and protect the independence of their judiciary, and this comes with a series of obligations, including that of following a process which is provided in the law and which respects both principles of due process and fair trial when a judge is accused of misbehavior,” she said.

The Special Rapporteur believes that if the Government was to go ahead with the impeachment of the Chief Justice as is, it would put in jeopardy the independence of the whole justice system in Sri Lanka, and that can only have negative repercussions on people looking for justice through the courts.

However Knaul said she has no intention of submitting a report on Sri Lanka to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) when it meets in March regardless of the result of the impeachment procedure.

“As a general rule, Special Rapporteurs only issue specific country reports after they have undertaken an official country visit on site. However, it is possible that the Special Rapporteur’s public views on the independence of the judiciary and the impeachment process against the Chief Justice will be quoted and used in documents presented to the Human Rights Council in March,” she said.

She also said that she will continue monitoring the situation and engage in dialogue with the Government of Sri Lanka bilaterally, without producing a report.