UN Rights rulings ‘not binding’ on Sri Lanka – Supreme Court

[TamilNet, Saturday, 16 September 2006, 11:36 GMT]
Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court says rulings by the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) in Geneva can be ignored if they go against the country’s constitution or the legal framework, the BBC reported Friday. The UNHRC had pointed out that as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Sri Lanka has accepted the UN body’s authority to rule on breaches of the Covenant. Chief Justice (CJ) Sarath Nanda Silva also observed that Sri Lanka’s leaders “should be more responsible in signing international treaties affecting the country’s sovereignty,” the BBC Sinhala service reported.

A five-member bench headed by Mr. Silva has ruled that Sri Lanka’s judiciary is not bound to implement UNHRC recommendations against Sri Lanka’s constitution or the legal framework, the BBC reported.

Although Sri Lanka has signed the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Covenant has not been incorporated into the constitution, the Supreme Court ruled.

The Supreme Court made its remarks after refusing another appeal by Nallaratnam Sinharasa to abolish a prison sentence imposed upon him by a Sri Lankan court.

According to Amnesty International, Sinharasa, a Tamil, was arrested in July 1993.

In his appeal to the UN he said Sri Lankan security forces subject him to severe torture following his arrest. A doctor later found scars on his back and eye resulting from the torture.

In December 1993 his thumbprint was forcibly placed on a ‘confession’ written in Sinhala.

The first time Sinharasa had access to a legal representative since his arrest was in September 1994.

In September 1995 he was convicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) including conspiracy to overthrow the government.

He was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment.

In July 2004 the UNHRC reviewed Singarasa’s case and concluded that his right to a fair trial had been violated as his conviction was based solely on his supposed "confession" and as he had been denied access to an interpreter during interrogation.

The UNHRC also criticised the fact that the onus was put on Singarasa to prove that his confession had been obtained by torture and concluded that the government had failed in its obligation to effectively investigate allegations of torture.

The UNHRC found the Sri Lankan state was obliged to provide Singarasa “with an effective and appropriate remedy, including release or retrial and compensation.”

But Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court has rejected both Singarasa’s appeal and the UNHRC directive, saying it cannot order the state to override the constitution by implementing such rulings.

The UNHRC had pointed out in its ruling that by becoming a State party to the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Sri Lanka had recognized the competence of the UNHRC to determine whether there has been a violation of the Covenant or not.

 

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