11/16/2012, 00.00
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UN envoy urges Sri Lanka to ensure judicial independence

by Melani Manel Perera
United Nations Special Rapporteur Gabriela Knaul speaks out against the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake. For her, reprisals and disciplinary measures against judges are unacceptable.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Sri Lanka must "take immediate and adequate measures to ensure the physical and mental integrity of members of the judiciary and to allow them to perform their professional duties without any restrictions, improper influences, pressures, threats or interferences, in line with the country's international human rights obligations," said Gabriela Knaul, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, in relation to the case of Dr Shirani Bandaranayake, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, who is facing impeachment procedures in parliament.

"Judges may be dismissed only on serious grounds of misconduct or incompetence, after a procedure that complies with due process and fair trial guarantees and that also provides for an independent review of the decision," the special rapporteur stressed.

For her Knaul, "restrictions, improper influences, pressures, threats or interferences" in this case could undermine Sri Lanka's justice system.

Article 107 of the constitution gives Sri Lanka's president the power to appoint the chief justice, but not to revoke him or her; only parliament can do so after a motion of impeachment is presented to the house.

In Knaul's opinion, this gives parliament undue control over the judiciary and is therefore incompatible with both the principle of separation of powers and article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a signatory.

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