Scepticism Over Latest Probe?
The Government announcement last week that the mandate of the Presidential Commission on missing persons had been expanded to investigate civilian deaths during the war and the appointment of three internationally acclaimed experts to advice the commission came as a surprise to many.
Some fear if the advice of the three prominent experts are highly critical then they may just end up in the bin like the International Independent Eminent Group of Persons (IIEGP) in 2008.
IIEGP, which was appointed by the Government, had terminated their observations from the Presidential Commission of Inquiry owing to what it said was the lack of political will on the part of the Government to support a search for truth…………………. READ ALL
Sri Lankan Government’s Experts To Seek Fair Probe?
President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed Sir Desmond de Silva as the Chairman of the Commission while Sir Geoffrey Nice and Professor David Crane are the others experts in the Advisory Council.
“I am deeply honoured to be appointed to play a part in a most important process. I very much hope that my colleagues and I could help to ensure a fair and just approach to the matters that fall for investigation,” Sir Desmond de Silva told The Sunday Leader in a short email.
Sir Desmond de Silva is a prominent British lawyer and former United Nations Chief War Crimes Prosecutor in Sierra Leone………….. READ ALL
The appointment of three well known international prosecutors – who probed war crimes that caused global revulsion – to advise the Maxwell Pranayama Commission investigating reportedly missing persons in the North and East, is President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s response to continuous allegations made against him since the end of the conflict.
The main allegation made against the Rajapaksa government has been that of a cover-up of human rights violations by the armed forces during the last stages of the conflict and the demand has been that an investigation by a foreign body be made in assuming that a Sri Lankan investigation will be biased.
The American sponsored resolution at the last sessions of the UNHRC at Geneva is for implementation of such a resolution.
The Rajapaksa regime’s stand on such an investigation has been that the conflict in Sri Lanka was purely an internal affair and compelling the country to permit investigation by foreigners would be tantamount to an affront to its sovereignty. The invitation extended to the three distinguished foreigners – one of whom is of Sri Lankan origin – does not involve the issue of national sovereignty for their role is purely advisory and they are here on the invitation of the Sri Lanka government.
The Chairman of the panel is Sir Desmond de Silva QC, son of Sri Lankan diplomat Frederick de Silva and grandson of George E. de Silva, former Minister of Health during World War II.
Some of the credentials of Sir Desmond are: He is one of the most high-profile criminal Queen’s Counsel in England; a member of the Criminal Bar Association and the International Association of Prosecutors. In 2002, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed him Deputy Prosecutor for the Special Court in Sierra Leon. Annan later promoted Sir Desmond to the post of Chief Prosecutor at the higher level of Under Secretary-General in 2005. He brought about the arrest of Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia, who was convicted of war crimes at The Hague in 2011.
De Silva’s legal expertise includes war crimes, crimes against humanity, espionage, treason, drugs, terrorism, human rights, white-collar fraud and sports law. Sir Desmond was appointed to head a Review into collusion by the security services and other agencies of the state into the 1989 murder of the high profile Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane
Some of the credentials of the other two members are:
David M. Crane, an American, was the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone from April 2002 until July 15, 2005. During his tenure, he indicted, among others, the then-President of Liberia, Charles Taylor.
Sir Geoffrey Nice has been involved with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. He was a deputy prosecutor at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague and initiated the prosecution’s initial case of linking atrocities committed in the former Yugoslavia to Milosevic. These impeccable credentials of the panelists would certainly relieve the minds of those who feared a cover up of the post conflict events.
The full terms of reference of the mandate given to the panelists are not available at the time of writing. Their role in advisory capacity too is not known as yet. The standing of these panelists in the field of investigation of violation of human rights necessarily calls for transparency in their findings and observations.
Some reports indicated that their terms of reference would not only cover the activities of the armed forces in the said period, but those of the LTTE as well. This should necessarily be so because so far wide publicity on the Sri Lankan issue has been given only to alleged offences of the government forces but not those of the LTTE.
The government has made the right move in this instance instead of burying its head in the sand on the grounds that the issue is an internal affair and foreign involvement would be tantamount to violation of national sovereignty. In the global village that we have made home in, such arguments have no capacity to hold strong. It is the professionalism with which we conduct our affairs of the state that will truly lay the dignity that will allow us the space to move this country forward.