IIGEP faults Commission of lacking Independence, Timeliness
[TamilNet, Monday, 11 June 2007, 09:42 GMT]
International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP), in a report released to the President of Sri Lanka on 1st June on the President’s Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to Investigate and Inquire into Alleged Serious Violations of Human Rights, said: "We have identified and raised a number of concerns with the Commission and the Government of Sri Lanka. We remain concerned that current measures taken by the Government of Sri Lanka and the Commission to address issues such as the independence of the Commission, timeliness and witness protection are not adequate and do not satisfy international norms and standards."
Justice P.N. Bhagwati
On the issue on independence, the report signed by P N Bhagwati Chairman, IIGEP, said" "The Attorney General’s Department is the Chief Legal Adviser to the Government of Sri Lanka. Members of the Attorney General’s Department have been involved in the original investigations into those cases subject to further investigation by the Commission itself. As such, members of the Attorney General’s Department may find that they are investigating themselves. Furthermore, it is possible that they be called as material witnesses before the Commission. We consider these to be serious conflicts of interest, which lack transparency and compromise national and international standards of independence and impartiality that are central to the credibility and public confidence of the Commission."
The IIGEP accused the CoI of not executing the expected investigations in a timely manner. "We are concerned that the Commission did not commence even preliminary investigations and inquiries until May 2007, despite being constituted six months earlier in November 2006. To date, internal processes have not been transparent; no detailed work plan has been announced; essential staff have not yet been fully recruited; investigative and witness protection units are not functioning; and significantly, evidence already known to be in the possession of Governmental bodies relating to the cases has not been gathered and transmitted to us. Such unnecessary delays undermine public confidence in the ability of the Commission to carry out its mandate in a timely manner," the report said.
The report also criticised the CoI for not enacting appropriate "legislation that accords with international norms and standards" to protect victims and witnesses.
"The public statements from State officials are creating the misleading impression that the Commission and IIGEP have wide mandates and powers and the resources to address ongoing alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka. This is not the case. In the current context, in particular, the apparent renewed systematic practice of enforced disappearance and the killings of Red Cross workers, it is critical that the Commission and IIGEP not be portrayed as a substitute for robust, effective measures including national and international human rights monitoring," the report said.
According to an announcement made on 6 September 2006, Sri Lanka's President invited an International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) to act as observers of the activities of the Commission [consisting of Sri Lanka nationals] which was mandated to investigate alleged abductions, disappearances and extra judicial killings.
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