The Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA), the Commonwealth Legal Education Association (CLEA) and the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA) are concerned about the recent motion in the Sri Lankan Parliament to proceed with the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake.
The existence of an independent and impartial judiciary is one of the cardinal features of any country governed by the rule of law.
By virtue of its membership of the Commonwealth, Sri Lanka is committed to the shared fundamental values and principles of the Commonwealth, at the core of which is a shared belief in, and adherence to, democratic principles including an independent and impartial judiciary.
Any measure on the part of the Executive or Legislature which is capable of being seen as eroding the independence and impartiality of the judiciary is a matter of serious concern and is in danger of eroding public confidence in the legal system as a whole.
The /Commonwealth (Latimer House) Principles on the Accountability of and the Relationship between the Three Branches of Government (2003)/, which form part of the Commonwealth fundamental values state that disciplinary proceedings which might lead to the removal of a judicial officer should include appropriate safeguards to ensure fairness’ that is to say, the right to be fully informed of the charges against them, to be represented at a hearing, to make a full defence and to be judged by an independent and impartial tribunal.
Furthermore these Principles require that judges should be subject to suspension or removal only for reasons of incapacity or misbehavior that clearly renders them unfit to discharge their duties.
The Associations urge upon 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 which, as the Commonwealth Secretary General emphasized in his statement of 15 November 2012, ‘govern the relationship between the three branches of government and are a cornerstone of our Association’s values.’ (press release)