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Sri Lanka lawyers protest impeachment of chief justice

Hundreds of Sri Lankan lawyers and citizens took to the streets of Colombo on Monday to protest the impeachment of Shirani Bandaranayake [JURIST report], the chief justice and lone woman on the country's Supreme Court. The protesters waved placards and shouted slogans calling on the government to halt to the impeachment [AFP report]. Last week, a government spokesperson announced that the government had begun the process of impeaching Bandaranayake. The specific charges were not revealed [AP report], but spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella confirmed that the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake was approved by more than 75 members of parliament. It has been speculated that the impeachment was prompted by Bandaranayake's decision to strike down a bill [AFP report] giving more powers to the economic development ministry, which is headed by the Sri Lankan president's younger brother.

Tension continues to grow between the Sri Lankan government and the judiciary after an outspoken judge was assaulted last month [JURIST report]. Sri Lanka is still struggling to establish rule of law in the wake of a 26-year civil war that ended in 2009. 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]. Last 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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