A report by Mónica Pinto, the former Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on her visit to Sri Lanka last year, has been submitted to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Pinto visited Sri Lanka from 29 April to 7 May 2016, at the invitation of the Government, to assess the situation and remaining challenges concerning the independence of judges, prosecutors and lawyers and the proper administration of justice.
The visit was conducted jointly with the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez.
In the report, Mónica Pinto says Sri Lanka needs to conduct a strict exercise of introspection, so as to improve the independence, quality and credibility of its judiciary, the Attorney-General’s department and police forces.
“A significant change in the attitude and sensitivity of many members of the legal professions, in particular the judiciary, towards reforms and human rights will be necessary. Guidance on how to go about strengthening the independence, impartiality and competence of the administration of justice can be found in this report, but also in an important number of international and regional instruments, including the Latimer House Principles on the Three Branches of Government endorsed by the Commonwealth Heads of Government in 2003,” she says.
Pinto says while the democratic gains of the last two years must be welcomed, it is important to recognize that much more could and should have been done to manifest a commitment to genuine reform, in particular in the justice sector, and concretizing the creation of meaningful and participatory transitional justice mechanisms.
She also notes more tangible reforms are expected and necessary before the country can be considered to be on a stable and sustainable path towards democracy governed by the rule of law.
“It is important to accelerate the process of positive change within a comprehensive and inclusive framework otherwise the momentum for such reform could be lost,” she added.
Pinto notes that building a justice system that all sectors of society will trust and be able to rely on to defend and enforce their rights will take time, but it will also take bold steps as a sign of the authorities’ commitment to address the atrocities of the past and above all the structures that allowed these to happen.
She says is it important to remember that justice must not merely be done, but must also be seen to be done. (Colombo Gazette)