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Sun, 21 December 2014 13:02:34
Sri Lanka judges urge fair trial for chief justice
16 Dec, 2012 09:48:53
Dec 16, 2012 (LBO) - An association representing Sri Lanka's judicial officers have called for an independent tribunal to probe impeachment charges against chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake to ensure a fair trial.
The chief justice walked out of the proceedings saying she was insulted by members of a ruling party dominated parliamentary select committee (PSC) which came under fire for not giving basic rights available to an ordinary accused.

"We are of the view that the PSC did not qualify in terms of the constitutional requirements to conduct an inquiry for the removal of a Chief Justice as a genuine tribunal," Sri Lanka's Judicial Services Association said in a statement.

"Such a tribunal must be an impartial judicial body. The composition, procedure and the very conduct of some members of the PSC failed to meet the basic standards expected of an impartial tribunal."

The JSA also asked for legislation to enact an independent tribunal to go into impeachment of senior judges.

The statement said the United National Basic Principle of the Independence of the Judiciary guarantees to every judge a fair hearing and an independent review of removal proceedings.

"In the PSC proceedings, the Chief Justice was not allowed to exercise the basic fundamental rights enjoyed by ordinary civilians of this country as enshrined in the Constitution," the JSA said.

"Chief Justice and her lawyers were not given fair trial guarantees enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Sri Lanka is a party."

The full statement is reproduced below:

The Government members of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) appointed to probe the charges contained in the impeachment motion have found the Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake guilty of three charges.

We, the Judicial Service Association (JSA),as the sole representative body of the judicial officers of Sri Lanka, strongly feeland record its considerable concern that the Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake did not get a fair hearing at the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) proceedings in terms natural justice and fair trial in coming to the above finding.

We are of the view that the PSC did not qualify in terms of the constitutional requirements to conduct an inquiry for the removal of a Chief Justice as a genuine tribunal. Such a tribunal must be an impartial judicial body. The composition, procedure and the very conduct of some members of the PSC failed to meet the basic standards expected of an impartial tribunal.

The JSA is extremely concerned and shocked about the fact that the Chief Justice was insulted and humiliated by two members of the PSC forcing the Chief Justice and her lawyers to walk out in protest against this outrageous situation. We are also concerned about the behavior of certain media institutions maintained by tax payer’s money and their conduct in contempt of PSC proceedings and also in contempt of the entire judiciary.

Security of tenure of office of judges is of paramount importance to safeguard the independence of the judiciary. United Nations Basic Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary guarantees to every judge the right to a fair hearing and an independent review of removal proceedings (Item 17 and 20). Article 12(1) of the Constitution guarantees equality and equal protection of the law and, Article 13(5) the presumption of innocence. In the PSC proceedings, the Chief Justice was not allowed to exercise the basic fundamental rights enjoyed by ordinary civilians of this country as enshrined in the Constitution. Chief Justice and her lawyers were not given fair trial guarantees enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Sri Lanka is a party.

The impeachment process has proceeded against the Chief Justice irrespective of the request made by the Supreme Court to delay proceedings until they make a determination on the question for reference made by the Court of Appeal on constitutionality of Standing Order 78A. The PSC has been appointed disregarding the objections taken on the basis of serious legal grounds – that the removal of a superior court judge should be preceded by an inquiry of an impartial tribunal consisting of judicial officers.

The Mahanayakes and the other religious dignitaries, the academics, professionals, and people from many other walks of life who, in the recent weeks, have expressed considerable concern over the impeachment process and has come under severe attack in Sri Lanka, as well as by authoritative statements from important international sources such as the Commonwealth Secretariat, Commonwealth Association of Judges and Lawyers, the United Nations, International Committee of Jurists, Law Asia and from persons of high international repute, including Sri Lanka’s most senior judge Dr. C. G. Weeramantry.

We urge His Excellency the President not to act on the findings of the PSC. We urge the Parliament to enactnecessary legislation or amend the existing Standing Orders in terms of Article 107(3) to ensure setting up of fair, transparent, and impartial tribunal which would guarantee due process to probe the allegations of misbehavior of the Chief Justice and other Apex Court Judges.

Judicial Services Association
14th December 2012

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