History: • Under British control from 1815 until independence in 1948 • Name changed from Ceylon to Sri Lanka (“Sacred Land”) in 1972. • Population: 21 Million • Administrative capitol is Kotte. Commercial capitol is Colombo. • Civil War since mid 1980s between government and Tamil Tigers. • Ethnically and Religiously Diverse. • 70% of the country is Buddhist • The Sinhalese are the ethnic majority in Sri Lanka, • Tamils are the largest ethnic minority (16%).
Government: • Unitary State. • Dual Presidential / Parliamentary system. • President is the head of state, head of government, and Commander in Chief. • Elected by popular vote. • Parliament is Unicameral with 225 members. • PM serves at President’s deputy.
Legal System: • Based on a combination of English common law, Roman-Dutch, Kandyan, and Jaffna Tamil law.
Court Structure • Supreme Court • Court of Appeal • High Court • District Courts • Magistrate’s Courts • Primary Courts
Provisional Courts • Civil cases with awards lower than 1,500 rupees • Enforces local bye-laws. • Appeals go to Provisional High Courts. • Magistrate’s Courts • Low level civil and criminal cases. • Can fine up to 1,500 rupees and give prison time of up to 2 years. • Appeals go to Provisional High Courts • District Courts • Civil cases. • Appeals go to Court of Appeals. • High Court of Sri Lanka • Serious criminal cases • Court of Appeals of Sri Lanka • Writ of habeas corpus.
Judicial Effectiveness • Justice is very slow in Sri Lanka. • Many criminal cases take longer than 5 years to complete, and some civil cases take up to 20 years. • Chief Justice • Judiciary is becoming a joke. • Vigilantism. • Court of Appeals backlog. • 8-10 years.
Supreme Court • 17th Amendment. • Justices appointed by President after getting permission from Constitutional Council. • Justice Mandatory Retirement Age: 65 • Justices can only be removed if President has support from majority of Parliament.
Supreme Court • Original Jurisdiction • Constitutional Issues • Fundamental Rights • Judicial Review • Final Appellate Jurisdiction • Consultative Jurisdiction
Judicial Independence • Constitutionally Guaranteed • Reality: • Executive power • Witness intimidation • Rulings ignored by government. • Prevention Against Terrorism Act (1979) • Coerced confessions • No jury trials.
Judicial Independence • Recent indictment of former President Chandrika Kumaratunga (10/8/08) for corrupt deal while in office was first time executive had ever been confronted in this manner by the Judicial Branch
Human Rights: • Numerous human rights violations. • Civil War used as justification for disappearances, torture, and murder. • Tamil ethnic group tends to be targeted. • U.S. Dept. of State Human Rights Report 2007: • Armed attacks against civilians, kidnapping. • few arrests and no prosecutions as a result of these abuses. • “Government security forces used the broad 2005 emergency regulations to detain civilians arbitrarily, including journalists and members of civil society.”