The ‘Bad’ Member States…
Recent developments in Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe took centre stage at last week’s Commonwealth Law Conference in Cape Town, South Africa with the General Assembly of members giving unanimous acclaim to the Resolution by their Association, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA), calling for the suspension of Sri Lanka from the 54 member state Commonwealth of Nations.
Sri Lanka’s Chief Justice, Shirani Bandaranayake, was removed from office in January this year in what is generally regarded as a flawed impeachment process and in defiance of court judgments by the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.
About 60 judges and magistrates were subsequently arbitrarily relocated around the country.
In Zimbabwe too, the Mugabe government stands accused of continued violation of her citizens’ human rights. The arrest and incarceration last month of prominent Zimbabwean Human Rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, on spurious charges which were largely based on barely veiled political reasons also took centre stage at the CLC.
Mtetwa was arrested during a raid on the party office of Mugabe opponent, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. She spent eight days in Police custody before being released on bail upon appeal to the High Court after an initial denial of bail by the Magistrate’s Court.
Her arrest which prompted intense public and international outcry was seen as a thinly disguised ploy to prevent her from defending some members of Tsvangirai’s party.
The impeachment of the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka, as well as the arbitrary transfer of judges, has raised grave concerns about the independence of the country’s judiciary.