The removal from office in Sri Lanka of Chief Justice Bandaranayake was unlawful, is undermining public confidence in the rule of law, and threatening to eviscerate the country’s judiciary as an independent guarantor of constitutional rights states the Executive Summary of an International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) report released today.Issued ahead of the full report, the Executive Summary of A Crisis of Legitimacy: The Impeachment of Chief Justice Bandaranayake and the Erosion of the Rule of Law in Sri Lanka finds the legal profession in Sri Lanka to be in a perilous state. The Executive Summary of A Crisis of Legitimacy includes specific recommendations to Sri Lanka’s authorities, including taking immediate steps to reverse the impeachment and replacement of Chief Justice Bandaranayake, consistent with the Sri Lankan Constitution and extant rulings of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, drawing up a Code of Conduct for judges as a matter of urgency, taking full account of the principles set out in relevant international instruments, including the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct and the Latimer House Guidelines; and Repealing the 18th Amendment to the Constitution and taking steps to create a body independent of the President and responsible for the appointment of all senior officials and judges in Sri Lanka.To the UN, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group and Member Countries of the Commonwealth the delegation’s recommendations include inviting the Government of Sri Lanka to indicate precisely what assistance it requires to put reforms into effect and asking the Government in particular how it will facilitate future visits by and cooperate with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, and the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. Sternford Moyo, IBAHRI Co-Chair commented, ‘We call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to take immediate steps to reverse the impeachment and replacement of Chief Justice Bandaranayake and to work to rebuild the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession in the country, as a matter of absolute urgency.’ The interviews were conducted remotely because authorities would not permit an investigation to take place within Sri Lanka. The delegation found there to be a systematic effort to intimidate and discredit lawyers and others who advocate and promote respect for fundamental rights in Sri Lanka.In advance of the planning for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka in November 2013, Sternford Moyo stated, ‘This is a critical time for Sri Lanka and international efforts to work towards reform must be intensified. The IBAHRI invites the Commonwealth to carefully consider this report and Sri Lanka’s position with regard to respect for the separation of powers, the rule of law, good governance and human rights as enshrined in Sri Lanka’s Charter when deciding how to proceed with arrangements for the forthcoming CHOGM.’ A high-level delegation, under the auspices of the IBAHRI, investigated the removal of Chief Justice Bandaranayake and the independence of the legal profession in Sri Lanka through a series of in-depth conversations by telephone and via the internet with a range of key players in Sri Lanka, including judges, lawyers, journalists, parliamentarians and civil society activists.
AN INDUSTRIAL ACTION ballot of SIPTU members at the Aer Lingus, the DAA and the Shannon Airport Authority is now under way. The vote is the latest development in a long-running dispute over a pension fund, known as the ‘Irish Aviation Superannuation Scheme’.The vote follows a staff meeting last week at which union members called on the trustees of the scheme to resign. They claim that employers have failed to engage in meaningful discussions on the €800 million deficit in the fund.The decision comes a month after SIPTU said that Aer Lingus had threatened them with legal action if they went ahead with a ballot.A SIPTU spokesperson confirmed this morning that the balloting process had now commenced, and was expected to continue for several more days.Speaking yesterday, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said that the solution to the problem was “simple” and that union members would eventually have to accept reduced benefits.“The problem with the pension fund is like the problems in so many pension funds — the amount of money being paid in by the company and members over the years doesn’t match the promises that were given or the expectations that currently exist.“So the solution is a simple one — the companies will have to put in more money and the pensioners and members will to have to accept reduced benefits and that solution will be arrived at at some point, so ideally let’s avoid a strike that is unnecessary in the meantime.”SIPTU organiser Dermot O’Loughlin has said there’s “extreme anger” over the situation among workers at the three companies.The union’s ballot is inclusive of strike action, and SIPTU has called on Aer Lingus, the DAA and the Shannon Airport Authority to make discussions on the IASS a priority.“Failure to do so will unfortunately lead to very significant industrial episodes at Ireland’s international airports,” O’Loughlin said last week.Read: Staff at DAA, Shannon Airport and Aer Lingus to hold ballot on industrial action >Read: SIPTU threatened with legal action over Aer Lingus pensions row >