Colombo Telegraph

The AHRC Seeks UN Intervention On The Independence Of The Judiciary In Sri Lanka

By Colombo Telegraph

The Asian Human Rights Commission today wrote a letter to Ms. Gabriella Knaul, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers informing her of the attempted abduction and assault of Mrs. Manjula Tilakaratne, the secretary of the Judicial Service Commission of Sri Lanka.

The AHRC stated that: The judiciary in Sri Lanka is facing an exception threat of being reduced merely to administrative functions and of rubber stamping the decisions of the executive as are some ‘judiciaries’ in Asia such as that of Myanmar and Cambodia. This is a very real and serious threat.

The AHRC requested the Special Rapporteur that:

…. in your capacity as the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers you should seek a visit to Sri Lanka in order to observe the situation yourself or otherwise take some exceptional steps for assessment of the situation and to make an effective intervention. The highest bodies of the United Nations need to be duly informed about the predicament that the independent judiciary in Sri Lanka is faced with.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Ms. Knaul,

Re: Attempted abduction and the assault of the secretary of the Judicial Service Commission of Sri Lanka

I refer to my earlier correspondence to you dated September 25, 2012 regarding a press release issued by Mr. Manjula Tilakaratne, the secretary to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) regarding certain threats faced by the JSC and the independence of the judiciary in Sri Lanka. I am now writing to you to inform you that there was an attempted abduction of the JSC secretary in which he was assaulted on October 7. Perhaps you have already been made aware of this incident.

The details of the incident are as follows:

On October 7, 2012 the secretary to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), Manjula Thilakaratne, a former High Court judge, was attacked by four persons. The JSC secretary, accompanied by his wife, had taken his son to drop him at the St. Thomas College gymnasium. After dropping his wife and son at the college he parked his car and as he to wait for some time took a newspaper and was reading it.

Suddenly he saw four persons stopping near his car. One of them had a pole that was about three-feet long and another was holding a pistol. The one with the pole walked towards the passenger’s door of the car and the other three were in front of the door on the driver’s side. The one with the pistol and the other two demanded that the JSC secretary should open the door but he refused.

Then they threatened to use the pistol and at that point he opened the door. One of the three persons asked whether he was the boss (Lokka) of the JSC. Then without warning they started beating him about the face and tried to drag him out of the car.

He continued to resist them. Having realised that it would be difficult to pull him out of the car they tried to push him into the passenger’s seat and he realised that they were trying to abduct him. At this stage he shouted loudly.

On hearing his shouts some doors from the nearby houses opened and some three-wheeler drivers and others were attracted by the noise.

At this stage the four assailants grabbed his mobile phone and ran towards the road behind the car and he lost sight of them.

Later the JSC secretary was admitted to the hospital and is being treated for his injuries.

The following day all the judges and lawyers of Sri Lanka boycotted the courts for a day as a mark of protest.

I am attaching herewith a copy of a statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission pointing out the basic threats faced by the JSC and the independence of the judiciary in general in Sri Lanka.

The judiciary in Sri Lanka is facing an exception threat of being reduced merely to administrative functions and of rubber stamping the decisions of the executive as are some ‘judiciaries’ in Asia such as that of Myanmar and Cambodia. This is a very real and serious threat.

Perhaps in your capacity as the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers you should seek a visit to Sri Lanka in order to observe the situation yourself or otherwise take some exceptional steps for assessment of the situation and to make an effective intervention. The highest bodies of the United Nations need to be duly informed about the predicament that the independent judiciary in Sri Lanka is faced with.

Hoping for your urgent intervention on the situation of the Sri Lankan judiciary,

I remain,

Yours sincerely,

Basil Fernando
Director Policy and Programme Development
Asian Human Rights Commission

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