HONG KONG: Chief Justice Sarath Silva will not participate at the City University of Hong Kong Basic Law conference

Earlier the Asian Human Rights Commission shared the Open Letter written to the Acting President and the Dean of the School of Law of the City University regarding the participation of the Chief Justice, Sarath Silva of Sri Lanka, in a conference entitled “Hong Kong Basic Law: the First Ten years and its future”. In that letter we informed the organizers of the seminar of some important matters regarding the human rights record of Chief Justice Silva (for details please refer to http://www.ahrchk.net/statements/mainfile.php/2007statements/1072/).

We have now been informed by two professors of the City University “that Chief Justice, Sarath Silva has decided not to participate in the Basic Law conference.”

On the basis of this information the AHRC is calling off a protest demonstration and a public forum previously arranged for Friday the 22nd June. We are also announcing that within a short period of time the AHRC will organise a public forum on the problems relating to the independence of the judiciary in several Asian countries and the lessons that should be learned from such experiences by Hong Kong. The details regarding this proposed meeting will be announced by the AHRC as soon as possible. We wish to thank the several persons, who at short notice helped to organise our protest regarding Chief Justice Silva’s participation at this conference.

In many countries of Asia the independence of the judiciary has not only been undermined but in many instances is rapidly declining. The extent to which the judiciary has been negatively affected has been extensively reported by the Asian Human Rights Commission through its Urgent Appeals, statements and other publications. Several years ago the AHRC published a book on the Decline of Fair Trial in Asia. Recently, the AHRC held two Asian seminars on judicial corruption and executive control. The statements of these seminars can be obtained from the AHRC.

The AHRC categorically states that the core of constitutional adjudication in any country is the independence of the judiciary. When the independence of the judiciary is undermined all the basic principles of constitutionalism are also undermined. What often happens, by way of constitutional adjudication in several countries of Asia, is interpretations of the law by the judiciary in favour of the executive, to the detriment of the basic rights of the citizens. Under these circumstances there is a degeneration of the judicial role into the defense of authoritarianism, abuse of power and corruption.

One of the problems that the global human rights movement finds hard to resolve is the human rights violations by the judiciary itself. When the judiciary arbitrarily detains or imprisons persons there is hardly any recourse through which a citizen can obtain redress. The use of contempt of court laws to intimidate lawyers, as well as litigants, cannot only have a chilling effect on litigation but also create a fear psychosis in the entire society. One of the major problems that several countries of Asia have to deal with from the point of view of the advancement of democracy and human rights is the arbitrary systems of justice imposed on the people.

We hope that the “Hong Kong Basic Law: the First Ten years and its future” conference will affirm the principle of the independence of the judiciary and develop further thought and jurisprudence to ensure that Hong Kong will not suffer the great threats that are faced by the judicial systems in other countries such as Sri Lanka.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-129-2007
Countries : Hong Kong,