Junio 17, 2007

Lanka rights probe ‘set to end’ in failure

COLOMBO: A Sri Lankan probe into rights abuses blamed on security forces and Tamil Tiger rebels looks set to end in failure, international experts warned yesterday, as Amnesty International demanded an outside monitoring operation.

Experts nominated by the international community to observe a presidential commission probing abuses – including the massacre of 17 aid workers that Nordic truce monitors blame on the army – are worried at involvement of the attorney general’s department.

The damning assessment of the presidential probe comes as President Mahinda Rajapakse is in Geneva meeting human rights officials amid mounting international pressure on his government to halt any abuses blamed on state security forces.
“We ... are concerned that the conduct of the President’s Commission of Inquiry ... is inconsistent with international norms and standards,” the 11-person panel said in its second highly critical statement in a week.
“Failure to take corrective action will result in the commission not fulfulling its fact-finding mandate in conformity with those norms and standards."
The panel said its concerns that the involvement of members of the Attorney General’s department raised conflicts of interest had been ignored.
The experts said they had “observed examples of a lack of impartiality", with the counsel from the Attorney General’s department stating “as fact matters which are controversial to the case."
“Furthermore the witness was improperly led ... and information relied on by the witness and the Attorney General’s department was not made available to the (panel),” they added.
Only the testimony of one witness and the partial testimony of a second had been taken so far.
“Taking evidence in this manner will not, in our opinion, reveal the information and evidence necessary to identify perpetrators of human rights violations and enable the commission to achieve its mandate in a timely manner,” the panel said.
The presidential commission issued a statement of its own, saying it was satisfied its methodology would yield results. It called on the panel to ensure that at least one of its observers was always present to watch proceedings.
Addressing the International Labour Organisation’s annual conference in Geneva on Friday, Rajapaksa said he invited the panel of observers to Sri Lanka because his government wanted to establish the truth.
“We are open to scrutiny because we respect human rights, democracy and the freedom of the people,” he said. “Unfortunately, it is our flexibility and sincerity that seems to encourage the global non-governmental community to demand further involvement.”
“Our armed forces and the police are among the most disciplined in the world and they have great respect for human rights. Any lapses on their part will be promptly investigated and corrective action taken,” he added.
The panel of experts is also worried by what they say are insufficient measures to ensure protection of witnesses, particularly as reports of abductions and disappearances mushroom amid a new chapter in a civil war that has killed nearly 70,000 people since 1983.
Rights groups have reported hundreds of abductions and disappearances blamed on both sides. Rajapaksa argues that many of those reports are fake and designed to discredit his government and denies that the security forces are involved.
“In this deteriorating situation, an independent presence to monitor and investigate human rights abuses by all sides is critical,” Amnesty Secretary General Irene Khan said in a statement overnight.
The panel’s harsh reviews of the probe come against a backdrop of rights violations, assassinations and heavy fighting between state forces and separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). – Reuters

Posted by marga at Junio 17, 2007 4:06 PM | TrackBack
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