Dear Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma,
We, the International Commission of Jurists, enclose an open letter addressed to President Mahinda Rajapakse of Sri Lanka, signed by fifty-six eminent jurists from around the world, condemning the unlawful removal of Chief Justice Bandaranayake and expressing grave concern for the decline of rule of law and independence of the judiciary in Sri Lanka.
We urge you to follow through on your earlier statements and consider changing the venue of the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting as part of the commitment to advance and strengthen adherence to the Commonwealth’s oft-stated values and Principles pertaining to the rule of law.
Removing the Chief Justice through a process declared unconstitutional by the apex court and in contravention of international standards on the independence of the judiciary goes directly against the core principles enunciated in the Singapore Declaration 1971, the Harare Declaration 1991 and the Latimer House Principles on the Three Branches of Government 2003; it flies in the face of the Commonwealth values of promoting and protecting democracy, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
We recall your statement that ‘The Commonwealth’s Latimer House Principle, which govern the relationship between the three branches of government, are the cornerstone of our association’s values.’
The unlawful impeachment process marks a serious acceleration of the general and serious decline in respect for human rights and the rule of law in Sri Lanka, as documented recently in our report Authority without Accountability.
These developments are all the more alarming given the ongoing failure of the Sri Lankan government to respond to domestic and international demands for accountability for serious human rights violations in the country.
In the present climate, allowing Sri Lanka to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in November 2013 would raise serious questions about the Commonwealth’s commitment to democracy, the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any queries or comments. We thank you in advance for your sensitivity to this important matter.
The International Commission of JuristsAdvocacyOpen letters