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ICJ report on ’The Crisis of Impunity in Sri Lanka’

2 November 2012

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From: ICJ – International Commission of Jurists

Press Release 1 November 2012

The Sri Lankan government must immediately cease its assault on the independence of the judiciary, the ICJ said in a new report released today.

The 150-page report, Authority without Accountability: The Crisis of Impunity in Sri Lanka, documents how, and why, it has become nearly impossible for people who have suffered serious violations of their human rights to receive justice in Sri Lanka. Recent attacks on judicial officers and judges only highlight the systematic erosion of accountability mechanisms.

“Victims and survivors of major human rights violations do not receive redress, and perpetrators are not brought to justice. The absence of justice removes an important deterrent to future perpetrators,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia Director. “This situation is the very definition of a climate of impunity, and constitutes a serious breach of Sri Lanka’s international obligation to protect and promote human rights.”

The Crisis of Impunity describes how decades of Emergency rule and legal immunities granted to the President and other government officials weakened the checks and balances in the Sri Lankan government, while political interference—particularly in the conduct of the office of the Attorney-General—in practice led to a failure of justice in a number of key cases.

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This Report is the first in a series of national studies examining Authority without Accountability in South Asia. It calls on the Government of Sri Lanka to respect its international obligations to investigate human rights violations and bring the perpetrators to justice through prosecution and provide victims with effective remedies and reparations for their injuries. The ICJ also urged the Sri Lankan government to:

  • Repeal all statutes that protect State officials from prosecutions for human rights violations, ensuring that all persons against whom there are credible allegations of gross human rights violations, including crimes under international law, are brought to justice;
  • Repeal or amend Article 35(1) – (3) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka conferring immunity upon the President in respect of conduct in his or her private or personal capacity during office, so as to ensure that, as a minimum there is no immunity conferred for conduct constituting gross human rights violations or crimes under international law;
  • Ensure that executive and administrative regulations and orders issued by the President relating to emergencies are subject to judicial review;
  • Amend or repeal the 18th Amendment to the Constitution to restore the independent appointment process of the superior judiciary and other key public service posts, in line with international standards and guidelines; and
  • Establish an independent office of the prosecutor to handle the prosecution of State officials, including those who participate in gross violations of human rights law and crimes under international law.

[Download the full report, in PDF]

Authority without Accountability: The Crisis of Impunity in Sri Lanka
A report by ICJ
November 2012