Further to our statement of 19 November 2012, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA), the Commonwealth Legal Education Association (CLEA) and the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA) are concerned about the developments surrounding the impeachment of the Sri Lankan Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake.
Sri Lanka, as a member of the Commonwealth, is expected to adhere to the fundamental values and principles of the Commonwealth which includes the provision of an independent and impartial judiciary that can only be removed by proper process on grounds of incapacity or gross misconduct.
In monitoring reports of the impeachment proceedings the Associations are very concerned that The Commonwealth (Latimer House) Principles on the Accountability of and the Relationship between the Three Branches of Government (2003), have been ignored and that as a result the judiciary and the Rule of Law have been severely damaged.
We endorse the Statement made by the International Commission of Jurists on 6 December 2012 and have made representations to the Commonwealth Secretariat General on this issue as well as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers and note the Commonwealth Secretary General’s statement of 12 December 2012.
The President of the CMJA stated that: “The independence of the judiciary is a fundamental principle supporting the rule of law. By its arbitrary actions, and its failure to follow even its own constitutional safeguards for the removal of judges, the Sri Lankan Parliament has seriously undermined that principle and called into question its adherence to the shared values of the Commonwealth.”
The Associations urge the Government and Parliament of Sri Lanka to respect the independence of the judiciary and in particular to comply with its constitutional safeguards and the Commonwealth Latimer House Principles and international standards.