Protesters in Colombo rally for a more independent judiciary
The United Nations special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers yesterday joined the growing chorus of criticism aimed at the government amid recent moves to impeach the country’s first female chief justice.
Citing political interference in the judiciary, Gabriela Knaul said that the government should “reconsider” impeaching Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake after she was deemed responsible for vetoing a bill which would have given more powers to the economics minister Basil Rajapakse, the brother of the president.
“The irremovability of judges is one of the main pillars guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary and only in exceptional circumstances may this principle be transgressed,” she said.
The Brazilian UN legal envoy also called for an end to intimidation, threats and violence against members of the judiciary in Sri Lanka who have been on the receiving end of numerous attacks in recent years, many of which have not been investigated, she added.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa earlier this month denied interfering in the judiciary in relation to Bandaranayake’s impeachment, adding that the legislature had to look into complaints against a chief justice.
J. C. Weliamuna, a rights lawyer and former executive director of Transparency International Sri Lanka, who was himself the target of a grenade attack in 2008, said that the government’s all-encompassing grip on Sri Lanka was the main cause of efforts to undermine the judiciary.
“Judges and lawyers have been directly and indirectly intimidated and subjected to various kinds of harassment,” he said. “No judges would come forward to talk about these due to fear.”
In the attack against Weliamuna in September, 2008, one grenade exploded on the balcony of his Colombo residence without causing injury while a second did not detonate. No arrests have been made in connection with the attack.
Call for foreign monitors to ensure justice