War crimes probe goes ahead with int’l advice

mahinda familyBy Shamindra Ferdinando

With President Mahinda Rajapaksa broadening the mandate of the Presidential Commission to Investigate Complaints Regarding Missing Persons, the commission will shortly call for information from public as regards new matters under its investigation.

Chairman of the Commission retired High Court Judge Maxwell Parakrama Paranagama yesterday said that fresh information would be sought from the public or any other party having data pertaining to accountability issues.

Asked by The Island whether the commission would have to be renamed because of the vastly expanded mandate it had received in accordance with a gazette notification issued on July 15, 2014, Paranagama said that would be President Rajapaksa’s prerogative.

Responding to another query, Paranagama said that there were several issues to be tackled next week.

The other two members of the commission are Ms. Suranjana Vidyaratne and Ms. Mano Ramanathan. Appointed in August 2013, the Commission had been tasked with inquiring into disappearances though a new mandate was given last month, Secretary to the Commission H. W. Gunadasa told The Island yesterday.

President Rajapaksa on Tuesday revealed plans to include three more panelists in an International Advisory Council (IAC) now in place to help the investigation. President Rajapaksa initially appointed Sir Desmond de Silva, former UN Chief War Crimes Prosecutor in Sierra Leone, Sir Geoffrey Nice, formerly with the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia and David M. Crane, Chief Prosecutor of the Special Courts for Sierra Leone.

Authoritative sources said that Sri Lanka was seeking Indian and Japanese representatives in the IAC.

Gunadasa said that newspaper advertisements would be published shortly seeking information regarding the following matters:

i. The principal facts and circumstances that led to the loss of civilian life during the internal armed conflict that ended on the 19th May 2009, and whether any person, group or institution directly or indirectly bears responsibility in this regard by reason of a violation or violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law.

ii. Whether such loss of civilian life is capable of constituting collateral damage of a kind that occurs in the prosecution of proportionate attacks against targeted military objectives in armed conflicts and is expressly recognized under the laws of armed conflict and international humanitarian law, and whether such civilian casualties were either the deliberate or unintended consequence of the rules of engagement during the said armed conflict in Sri Lanka.

iii. The adherence to or neglect of the principles of distinction, military necessity and proportionality under the laws of armed conflict and international humanitarian law, by the Sri Lankan armed forces.

iv. Whether the LTTE as a non-state actor was subject to international humanitarian law in the conduct of its military operations.

v. The use by the LTTE of civilians as human shields and the extent to which such action constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law or international human rights law, and did or may have significantly contributed to the loss of civilian life.

vi. The role played, if any, by foreign governments in training, financing, and arming the LTTE or other armed groups.

B. The recruitment of child soldiers by the LTTE or illegal armed groups affiliated with the LTTE or any political party in violation of international humanitarian law or international human rights law.

C. International criminal activities of the LTTE and the application of financial and other resources obtained through such illegal activities in the prosecution of the conventional and guerilla war in Sri Lanka by the LTTE.

D. The suicide attacks by LTTE using child soldiers and other combatants under the direct orders of the leader of the LTTE, Velupillai Prabhakaran or any persons acting on his behalf, and the culpability for such actions under international humanitarian law or international human rights law.

Gunadasa said that separate sittings would have to be held to gather information on accountability issues in addition to investigating missing people’s cases. Commenting on the status of missing persons probe, Gunadasa said that the Commission had sittings in Kilinochchi, Jaffna and twice in Batticaloa. According to him, next round of sittings would take place at Manthai Divisional Secretariat on Aug 8 and 9, Mannar Divisional Secretariat on Aug 10 and Madhu Divisional Secretariat on Aug 11. The official said that the commission would accept fresh complaints from those living in the Mannar administrative district at the venues where sittings were scheduled to take place.

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