The Sri Lankan government must immediately cease its assault on the independence of the judiciary, the International Commission of Jurists said in a new report released today.
The 158-page report, Authority without Accountability: The Crisis of Impunity in Sri Lanka, documents how, and why, it has become nearly impossible for people who have suffered serious violations of their human rights to receive justice in Sri Lanka. Recent attacks on judicial officers and judges only highlight the systematic erosion of accountability mechanisms.
Victims and survivors of major human rights violations do not receive redress, and perpetrators are not brought to justice. The absence of justice removes an important deterrent to future perpetrators, the ICJ's Asia Director Sam Zarifi said "This situation is the very definition of a climate of impunity, and constitutes a serious breach of Sri Lanka’s international obligation to protect and promote human rights."
"The Crisis of Impunity describes how decades of Emergency rule and legal immunities granted to the President and other government officials weakened the checks and balances in the Sri Lankan government, while political interference -- particularly in the conduct of the office of the Attorney-General -- in practice led to a failure of justice in a number of key cases.
The Sri Lankan government has sought to evade the domestic and international demands for justice for the serious violations of international law by both sides to the conflict, estimated to have killed or injured tens of thousands of civilians. The situation has gotten particularly bad in the past few months, as we've seen the attacks on the judiciary turn into acts of physical violence. On 7 October 2012, unidentified persons assaulted the Secretary of the Judicial Service Commission, Manjula Tillekaratne. In July 2012, Government Minister Rishad Bathiudeen threatened a Magistrate in Mannar and then orchestrated a mob to pelt stones and set fire to part of the Mannar courthouse.
The Sri Lankan government must immediately act to reaffirm the independence of the judiciary and to protect judges and legal officers from violence," the ICJ said.
This Report is the first in a series of national studies in South Asia examining Authority without Accountability in South Asia. It calls on the Government of Sri Lanka to respect its international obligations to investigate human rights violations; take appropriate measures in respect of perpetrators of such violations, bringing those responsible to justice for violations constituting crimes through prosecution and the imposition of penalties commensurate to the offence; provide victims with effective remedies and reparations for their injuries; ensure the inalienable right to know the truth; and take other necessary steps to prevent recurrence of violations.
The International Commission of Jurists