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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Foreign Judges for War Crimes Tribunals: BASL on the Fence

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) yesterday took a non-committal stand on the issue of foreign judges sitting on war crimes tribunals expected to be set up soon.

It stated that these must inspire the confidence of “stakeholders” and be within the country’s Constitution, a position the Government has also taken.

A statement issued by the BASL admitted that Sri Lanka’s existing judicial and prosecutorial systems have “not met the confidence of many concerned”.

Having considered the UN Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka, along with the reports of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Paranagama and Udalagama Commission reports, the BASL states they point to the need for further inquiries into crimes that allegedly occurred during the ‘war years’.

The BASL recognises the need for a broader process of reconciliation, and offers its services towards this end, the statement adds.

Meanwhile, the Government on Friday appointed a retired High Court Judge as High Court Commissioner to expedite cases under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and the Emergency Regulations.

Irangani Perera was recommended by Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, approved by President Maithripala Sirisena and sworn in before the Chief Justice.

The appointment raised protests from the BASL which said a retired judge was unnecessary when there were High Court judges in the present cadre who could be considered.

The President has been asked to revoke this appointment in order to ensure the efficient administration of justice.

The functions that the High Court Commissioner will be expected to carry out “can be performed by High Court Judges appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Judicial Services Commission”, the BASL said in a statement.

“There is no justification in appointing a High Court Commissioner for this purpose”.

There are presently four vacancies in the High Court, BASL President Geoffrey Alagaratnam said. These must be filled and a suitable judge selected from amongst them to hear cases under the PTA and the Emergency Regulations as a matter of priority.

He said the appointment of a retired judge as High Court Commissioner amounted to “undue interference” and should have been done only under exceptional circumstances.
Sunday Times


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