Resignation: A Warning Of Deteriorating Judicial Independence And Rule of
Law In Sri Lanka.
a statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission based in Hong Kong
warned that the resignation of Justice Mark Fernando, a senior judge of
the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, two and half years earlier before his
stipulated date of retirement, indicates a dangerous phenomena beginning
to emerge, which is a sure sign of the erosion of independent judiciary
and the Rule of Law in the country.
The full text of the statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission
(AHRC) is given below:
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
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 caliber 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.
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Date: September 25, 2003