The appointment of former Attorney General Mohan Peiris (photo) as Sri Lanka’s new Chief Justice raises serious concerns about the future of the Rule of Law and accountability in the country, the ICJ said today.
Mohan Peiris has served in a variety of high-level legal posts in the past decade, always playing a key role in defending the conduct of the Sri Lankan government.
He served as Sri Lanka’s Attorney-General from 2009 to 2011. Since then he has served as the legal adviser to President Mahinda Rajapakse and the Cabinet.
“During his tenure as Attorney-General and the government’s top legal advisor Mohan Peiris consistently blocked efforts to hold the government responsible for serious human rights violations and disregarded international law and standards,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia director.
“Mohan Peiris’ appointment as the new Chief Justice, after a politically compromised and procedurally flawed impeachment, adds serious insult to the gross injury already inflicted on Sri Lanka’s long suffering judiciary.”
The International Commission of Jurists, in its recent report on impunity in Sri Lanka, highlighted Mohan Peiris’ lack independence as Attorney-General, noting the alarming number of cases involving prominent politicians that were withdrawn during his tenure.
In November 2011, as Attorney General, Peiris told the UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva that political cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda, believed to have been subjected to enforced disappearance in January 2010, had actually left Sri Lanka. In June 2012, Peiris admitted to a court in Colombo that this claim was groundless.
“ICJ condemns this appointment as a further assault on the independence of the judiciary and calls on the Sri Lankan government to reinstate Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake. If there are grounds for questioning the Chief Justice’s actions, they should be pursued following due process and a proper impeachment process.”
Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia-Pacific Regional Director, Bangkok, t:+66 807819002; email: sam.zarifi(at)icj.org
Sheila Varadan, ICJ Legal Advisor, South Asia Programme, Bangkok, t: +66 857200723; email: sheila.varadan(at)icj.org
In a statement today (see below), Justice Bandarayanake strongly denied all the charges against her and asserted her status as the legal Chief Justice of Sri Lanka’s supreme court. She said: “The accusations leveled against me are blatant lies. I am totally innocent of all charges…Since it now appears that there might be violence if I remain in my official residence or my chambers I am compelled to move…”
Sri Lanka-CJ final speech-2012 (full statement, in pdf)