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UN rights chief criticizes impeachment of Sri Lanka chief justice

A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] expressed concern [press release] on Friday over the impeachment and removal of Sri Lanka's Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake [JURIST news archive]. In a statement, the official criticized the actions of the lawmakers against Bandaranayake, calling the situation a "gross interference in the independence of the judiciary and a calamitous setback for the rule of law in Sri Lanka." He also expressed concern about the legality of the removal of the chief justice after the Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that Parliament did not have the authority to impeach a chief justice. The statement also voiced doubts about the judicial independence of Bandaranayake's replacement [JURIST report], a former attorney general for the Sri Lankan government.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official profile] signed the order to remove Bandaranayake from office on Sunday after the Sri Lankan parliament voted in an overwhelming majority to impeach the chief justice [JURIST reports] last week. Earlier this month, the UN expressed concern [JURIST report] over the chief justice's impeachment proceedings, saying they were "extremely politicized and characterized by lack of transparency, lack of clarity in the proceedings, as well as lack of respect for the fundamental guarantees of due process and fair trial." In December, Bandaranayake appealed a guilty verdict [JURIST reports] made against her earlier that month by a parliamentary committee on three charges of misconduct. The charges she was found guilty of dealt with conflict of interest, claiming of assets for tax assessment purposes and bias in handling a case against her husband.

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