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Sri Lanka judges, lawyers protest assault of outspoken judge

Lawyers and judges from Sri Lanka held a large-scale protest on Monday to express their dismay over the assault of an outspoken judge and to call for a thorough, impartial investigation into the incident. Nearly 500 judges, lawyers and other legal staff members marched in front of the Colombo Court Complex [AP report] carrying a coffin, which they said symbolized that death of Sri Lanka's independent legal system. Judicial Services Commission secretary and senior judge Manjula Thilakarathne was attacked [The Hindu report] on Sunday by unknown men in Mount Lavinia, a suburb of Colombo. According to local law enforcement, one person from a group of four conspirators exited a vehicle and beat Thilakaratne with a pistol [Asian Tribune report] while he was reading a newspaper in his car early on Sunday morning. At the end of September Thilakarathne publicly expressed concern about his safety and the safety of his colleagues, also said that their judicial independence was being infringed upon. Thilakarathne's judicial tasks [LBO report] include appointing, transferring and disciplinary control of judicial officers.

Sri Lanka is still struggling to establish rule of law in the wake of a 26-year civil war that ended in 2009. The Sri Lankan government has faced various allegations of human rights violations and war crimes by civil rights organizations and the UN since the end of its civil war. In July the government of Sri Lanka said that it may take up to five years to prosecute people accused of war crimes [JURIST report] during the civil war it fought with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [CFR backgrounder]. Earlier in July Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] urged Sri Lanka to stop arresting journalists who criticized the government [JURIST report]. In November the Sri Lankan government was subjected to criticism for its failure to investigate [JURIST report] issues of torture for past human rights violations and to enforce laws against continued torture and ill-treatment by government officials against civilians. In April 2011 a UN panel of experts on Sri Lanka found credible allegations of war crimes [JURIST report] committed during the country's war with the LTTE, warranting further investigation. In June 2010 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] called for an international inquiry [JURIST report] into the conduct of the Sri Lankan government during its civil war.

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