The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC) is concerned at the circumstances surrounding the impeachment of the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka, Shirani Bandaranayake, and at reports of attacks against the judiciary and the legal profession within Sri Lanka.
‘The Bar Human Rights Committee reiterates that an independent judiciary, free of any interference from the executive and legislative branches, is a necessary precondition for the fair administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights, the release says.
‘Judges should not be removed from office except for serious misconduct, and such a determination is itself a judicial determination which should be carried out by an independent and impartial tribunal which affords the accused person a fair hearing.
‘We have serious concerns about the inquiry conducted by the PSC.
- The PSC was composed of politicians, despite performing a judicial role. The majority were from the Government, at a time when the Chief Justice had been deciding on matters affecting the Government.
- The hearings were not public and no independent international observers were present.
- There appears to have been a wholesale failure to have regard to or respect the basic tenets of the right to a fair hearing: timely disclosure of evidence, adequate time to prepare, the right to test the evidence.
- In addition, it was reported that the Chief Justice was addressed in a way that was “Insulting and intimidating”.
- The PSC failed to address concerns raised by the Chief Justice or by members of the PSC themselves, and purported to conclude a report within 24 hours finding the Chief Justice guilty.
- ‘We call on the Government of Sri Lanka to observe respect for the independence of the judiciary, and not to act on the report of the Parliamentary Select Committee until these concerns have been addressed.
- We note that the Chief Justice has applied to the Court of Appeal to quash findings of the PSC. The application is to be heard on 3 January, but in the meanwhile Court of Appeal has advised the relevant authorities not to act in derogation of the rights of the Chief Justice until the application is heard and concluded.
The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (“BHRC”) is the international human rights arm of the Bar of England and Wales. It is an independent body concerned with protecting the rights of advocates, judges and human rights defenders around the world.