With Sri Lanka entering into an intensive campaign for the crucial General Election on August 17, we mark an important and significant day today—the World Day for International Justice.
Before going international, we first need to focus on national justice. During the past five years, specially after the enforcement of 18th Amendment which among other things took away the independence of the Judicial Services Commission, Sri Lanka has seen a breakdown of the rule of law and a subversion of the independence of the judiciary. One of the most blatant acts was the manner in which the then Chief Justice Shiranee Bandaranayake was impeached in a case which underlined the warning that when justice is hurried, justice could be miscarried. Many analysts raise questions about appointments to the appellate courts and there were allegations that VIPs had claimed they could get a court verdict in their favour through a telephone call. At present we are seeing a tragedy where a Supreme Court judge is facing charges in a Magistrate’s Court. The Magistrate allowed him bail, but the Attorney General is questioning this decision of the Magistrate.
When the Yahapalanaya Government led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe took office, it asked Chief Justice Mohan Peiris to resign. He refused and was later removed in a manner that was challenged by many legal analysts. Though the Constitutional Council was appointed under the 19th Amendment to appoint an independent Judicial Services Commission and thereby fully restore the independence of the judiciary, Parliament was dissolved before the CC could get down to this important task.
International Justice Day is celebrated throughout the world on July 17, as part of an effort to recognize the emerging system of the international process of criminal justice. July 17 was chosen because it is the anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the International Criminal Court (ICC).
On July 17, 1998, the Rome Statute was adopted by a vote of 120 to 7. The seven countries that voted against the treaty were Iraq, Israel, Libya, China, Qatar, the United States, and Yemen. Though Sri Lanka voted for the ICC Treaty, it is operative only for countries which signed and ratified it. Ranil Wickremesinghe, when he was Prime Minister from 2001 to 2003, declined to sign it.
Sri Lanka and other countries believe that permanent solutions to impunity must be found at the domestic level. This is the policy of the present Yahapalanaya government on issues relating to the resolution against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The last century has been the bloodiest in human history with hundreds of millions of casualties of mass rape, forced expulsion, disappearances, torture, slavery and other assaults on human dignity.
Issues relating to the ICC Treaty and national sovereignty apart, we need to remember that justice is the foundation for any democratic society and for social equality. For instance, one of the world’s most disgraceful and degrading crises is the plight of hundreds of millions of people being enslaved below the poverty line. All over the world, a mere one percent of the people including hundreds of multi-billionairs are known to have more money than 90 percent of the people. In most countries specially after the spread of the epidemic known as the globalised capitalist market economy, some 10 percent of the people comprising mainly the rich and ruling elite are known to control about 90 percent of the wealth and resources. The solution to this monstrous gap between the rich and the poor is not to produce more wealth because it is known that the rich will grab that extra wealth also with the rich becoming richer and the poor poorer. Therefore the solution to poverty is not producing more wealth but Justice in its highest and noblest dimensions.
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