Colombo denies visas to IBA jurists

Sri Lanka denied visas to three jurists, headed by India’s former Chief Justice J. S. Verma, from the London-based International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) to enter Sri Lanka on a fact finding mission related to the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, AFP reported. Colombo accused the jurists of "misrepresenting" the objective of their visit to Sri Lanka, and that the mission was going to undertake "activity surreptitiously which is of an intrusive nature to the sovereignty of Sri Lanka," according to the AFP. The IBA expressed "serious concern" over the withdrawal of visas as the team was due to visit Colombo for 10 days starting Friday.

The panel was going to study Sri Lanka’s sacking of chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake, the first woman to hold the nation’s highest judicial office.

Sacking of the Chief Justice, and the appointment of Mohan Peiris, a former Attorney General and legal advisor to the Sri Lanka’s president, have received world-wide condemnation, and concern, including from the U.S. and the U.N.

"Sri Lanka’s parliament and executive have effectively decapitated the country’s judiciary in pursuit of short term political gain," the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said in a statement earlier.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma expressed deep disappointment at the chief justice’s dismissal, saying that he would consider further Commonwealth initiatives on Sri Lanka, a member of the Commonwealth, and responses to situations perceived to constitute violations of core Commonwealth values and principles.

Gabriela Knaul, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, said the case against Bandaranayake was part of a pattern of attacks and threats against members of the judiciary and lawyers and interference in their work.

Knaul said article 107 of the Sri Lankan constitution, read together with Standing Orders of Parliament, contravened international human rights law and needed amending so that disciplinary proceedings against judges were conducted by independent commissions.

The Rajapaksa-appointed new Chief Justice Mohan Peiris, has gone on record for saying that the rise of crimes in the SL military occupied Jaffna was only a sign of normalcy returning after 29 years of militarization.

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