Sri Lanka and the Problem of Blind Justice

One of the most important aspects of any modern nation is the ability to have a structured judicial system that is legitimate and fair. Judges and the system itself must be impartial. This is ,of course , symbolized in the U.S. justice system as the image of a blind woman holding the scale.  Justice herself. In Sri Lanka, however, this does not seem to be the case.

The International Commission of Jurists, a worldwide group of lawyers and judges, has just issued a 150 page report entitled “Authority without Accountability: The Crisis of Impunity in Sri Lanka.” In that report, the group recounts how many perpetrators of human rights violations are not brought to justice-or even pursued- and that some have even physically attacked judges in order to coerce them into deciding one way. After one High Court judge spoke out on these pressures, he was pistol -whipped in an effort to keep him quiet.

Sri Lanka had been involved in a three decade civil war with the Tamil Tiger rebels that dominated certain parts of the country. According to the ICJ, the Sri Lankan government failed to submit any of the abuses these rebels committed, including large scale civilian casualties, to their courts for  justice to be served. The government disputes these claims. The ICJ says this is a result of the overall lack of accountability in the nation, where some of the pressure on the judges comes from the government itself.

I will not say that every judge or lawyer in the United States is free from influences from outside factors, because that would be naive and uneducated. However, I will say that physical attacks on judges would never be something that could be hidden from the citizens. If you do not believe in your justice system then citizens would never try to report injuries or crimes. Most likely, they would try to take justice into their own hands which just descends into chaos.

Is a fair and impartial justice system the most important factor of a legitimate government?

What could be done in Sri Lanka to prevent these abuses?

Are international bodies such as the ICJ right to issue these reports on accountability or lack thereof?

Sources: Reuters

Photo Source: Mark Millar UK



  1. I think the most important factor of a legitimate government is the ability to protect and serve its people. Protecting its people not only involves safeguarding them from international attacks launched by other nations, but from domestic aggression brought about by its own citizens, as well. Therefore, in order to protect its citizen from its citizens, a fair and impartial justice system is critical to a legitimate government. In Sri Lanka’s case, there obviously needs to be more accountability, as the ICJ suggests. To legitimize their justice system, it must be shown that wrongdoers will be brought before the court by their accusers (without fear of reprisal) and made to answer for their purported crimes. Reports by the ICJ, like the one in this article, are, thus, necessary to apprise the citizens of delinquent countries, as well as the rest of the world, of that country’s deficiencies so that they may be held accountable for them and pressured to change.

  2. The ICJ is certainly a good place to start in regards to bringing this issue to light in the international community. International bodies such as the ICJ have a duty to report injustice in the hopes that reports and other scholarly opinions on the issue will bring about reform and change in the region. It seems that the issue in Sri Lanka requires a complete overhaul of the government and the justice system, in order to stop these abuses. Unfortunately, it will probably take a lot of pressure from international organizations in order to stop the corruption from the top down. A fair and impartial justice system needs to be reinforced by the government–I believe they feed off of each other and work hand in hand. If these human rights violations continue, I wouldn’t be surprised if another body besides the ICJ will have to get involved in order to reverse the situation in Sri Lanka.

  3. I do not believe a fair and impartial justice system is the most important factor of a legitimate government because I do not believe any one part of government is the most important. I think each part is a piece of the puzzle and without an impartial justice system I do believe chaos is inevitable. With that being said, I am not sure how the reports from the ICJ will fix this problem. While I do believe the reports help bring these terrible acts into the international light, I do not believe these reports alone can bring about change. For change to happen I believe there has to be a group of people in the country that are large enough and brave enough to stand up and demand it. What these reports do is allow other countries to learn about the travesties happening within Sri Lanka and prepare for the time when there are a group of people are ready and willing to stand up and demand for change.

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