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Navanetham Pillay to submit report on Sri Lanka to UNHRC

Navanetham Pillay to submit report on Sri Lanka to UNHRC
Navanetham Pillay to submit report on Sri Lanka to UNHRC

United Nations Human Rights Council

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is to submit 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, “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,” the UNHRC office said.

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, Pillay’s office said.

The full
statement

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi
Pillay is deeply concerned that the impeachment and removal of Sri Lanka’s
Chief Justice has further eroded the rule of law in the country and could also
set back efforts for accountability and reconciliation.

The removal of the Chief Justice through a flawed
process — which has been deemed unconstitutional by the highest courts of the
land — is, in the High Commissioner’s view, gross interference in the
independence of the judiciary and a calamitous setback for the rule of law in
Sri Lanka.

Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake was served
notice of her dismissal and removed from her chambers and official residence on
Tuesday (15 January), in spite of a Supreme Court ruling that the parliamentary
procedure to remove her violated the Constitution.

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 jurist sworn in by the President as the new
Chief Justice on 15 January, the former Attorney-General and Legal Advisor to
the Cabinet, Mr. Mohan Peiris, has been at the forefront of a number of
government delegations to Geneva in recent years to vigorously defend the Sri
Lankan government’s position before the Human Rights Council and 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.

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.

Just this morning we have received alarming
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.

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.

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