International attention on Sri Lanka has focused recently on a devastating report from the United Nations reviewing its own failure to protect civilians during the humanitarian catastrophe of the final months of the island nation’s civil war in 2009. Yet as many in the international community have been looking back, a new, quieter crisis is threatening Sri Lanka’s battered democracy – and the chances of lasting peace – with the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa moving to impeach the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Should the impeachment effort succeed, it will complete a constitutional coup begun in September 2010 with the 18th amendment to the constitution, which ended presidential term limits and removed the independence of commissions on the police, human rights, judiciary, bribery and other areas of governance.
What some have framed as a battle for power between the judiciary and executive is in fact a one-sided assault on an already weakened legal system, which has for decades, but particularly under President Rajapaksa, routinely done the executive’s bidding.
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The International Crisis Group Report on Sri Lanka