SRI LANKA: Senior Judge’s Resignation a Warning of Deteriorating Judicial Independence and Rule Of Law in Sri Lanka

The news that Justice Mark Fernando has decided to resign from the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka two and a half years early is of grave concern. Observers believe that Justice Fernando has been sidelined and unfairly treated within the Supreme Court. In recent years the Chief Justice has excluded him from hearings relating to the constitutionality of bills before the Parliament. This is the same Chief Justice who headed a bench that imprisoned the lay litigant Michael Anthony Fernando for contempt of Court. The UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Mr. Param Cumaraswamy, referred to that decision as an “act of injustice”. Under these circumstances Justice Fernando’s resignation can be seen as an act of protest.

Justice Fernando has consistently upheld the rights of Sri Lankan citizens, especially those of the victims of human rights violations. Since joining the Supreme Court in 1988 he has observed the highest levels of independence and integrity, maintaining principles of impartiality, fairness and justice at all times.

Now, when the rule of law and administration of justice need thorough reforms, it is extremely important that judicial officers of Justice Fernando’s calibre continue their work. His premature retirement can only have an adverse effect on the rule of law in Sri Lanka and may further diminish the citizens’ trust in public institutions.

The Asian Human Rights Commission appeals to Justice Fernando to reconsider his decision to resign. His presence in the Supreme Court is desperately needed. The Government of Sri Lanka and other judges of the Supreme Court must assure Justice Fernando that he will be treated equally and will be given the opportunity to function fully in keeping with his role as a justice of the Supreme Court.

Asian Human Rights Commission – AHRC, Hong Kong

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-30-2003
Countries : Sri Lanka,