SRI LANKA: AHRC condemns the politically manipulated verdict of the second court-martial proceedings against Sarath Fonseka 

The Asian Human Rights Commission categorically condemns the decision of the second court-martial delivered today in the case against Sarath Fonseka. The political use of the judicial process is a complete denial of the basic freedoms of a citizen. A court-martial manipulated by a political regime is a threat not only to the individual concerned but also to all the citizens of the country. This, like the case against Thissanayagam, is an indication of political repression of the worst nature. Such use of the judicial process for political reasons has been seen in Russia under Joseph Stalin and these infamous trials are known as the Moscow trials. Adolf Hitler also continuously staged such trials against his political opponents. Other authoritarian rulers have done the same. Suharto in Indonesia, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines and several military leaders under Pakistan’s many military regimes have staged similar politically manipulated trials. Among the well-known political leaders who have been killed by the verdict of such politicized trials is Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan.

The Sri Lankan people and the international community must resist the manipulation of the judicial process by the present regime. This is not a matter of a particular person but an attack on the right to fair trial. Sri Lanka is going through a period where all the basic freedoms and rights enshrined in the Constitution are under challenge. With the 18th Amendment becoming law the right to free and fair elections is now under threat. The 18th Amendment also threatens the existence of independent public institutions in Sri Lanka. Article 35 of the 1978 Constitution places the executive president of Sri Lanka outside the jurisdiction of the Sri Lankan courts. The courts themselves are now being further undermined. Added to this is the beginning of the use of courts-martial for political purposes.

The demise of the freedom of Sri Lankan citizens is now very much a reality. To be silent on the case of Sarath Fonseka would be to set a bad example. If we are, then when others will face the same problem, which is inevitable, there will be no one left to protest. There will be those who will support the demise of freedom under various political pretexts such as the country’s need to have a strong leader. However, such supporters will have their own day to face similar threats in the not so distant future if we are to go by the lessons of history. Resisting such destruction of freedom has now become a matter of survival for all the people in Sri Lanka.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-197-2010
Countries : Sri Lanka,