2ND LEAD (Adds Nimalka Fernando video on IIGEP)
AG's role in investigations, main concern of IIGEP- Prof. Shearer
[TamilNet, Saturday, 10 May 2008, 01:44 GMT]
Member of the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP), and retired Professor of Law at Sydney Universisty, Prof. Ivan Shearer, in an interview to the Australian Tamil Broadcasting Corporation, said Friday that unless the Sri Lanka Government implements all IIGEP's suggestions, including appointing independent counsel to assist the Commission of Inquiries (CoI), establishing an effective witness protection program, and giving sufficient finances to the Commission to assert their independence, neither he nor other members would be willing to participate in any new IIGEP monitoring effort.
Prof. Ivan Shearer
Shearer said that the controversial letter Prof Baghwati sent to Sri Lanka's President was only a nuanced version of what the eleven members agreed on the subject of lack of political will on the part of Sri Lanka in investigating the violations. The Government of Sri Lanka tried to portray this matter as reflecting dissention within the IIGEP, but that there was no truth in the Government's statement, Shearer said.
Shearer said their main concern, which they raised at the early stages of IIGEP's work in Sri Lanka in February 2007, and repeated again in June 2007, was that there was conflict of interest in the Attorney General (AG) Department's involvement in the investigations. IIGEP had pointed out that it is not proper for one arm of the Government [AG] to investigate the possible misconduct of another arm of the Government.
Shearer added that the absence of witness protection program, the slow pace of investigations where after a full year of investigations only four of the 17 cases had progressed to the stage of public inquiry, and the lack of co-operation from other state bodies were other reasons that forced the IIGEP to terminate its activities of Rights monitoring in Sri Lanka.
Prof. Shearer said that IIGEP had a good working relationship with the Commission of Inquiries, but that IIGEP felt that CoI was under pressure from the Government. "All of the nasty things against the IIGEP came from one place, and that is from the AG's office," Shearer said.
Shearer said that the members were nominated by the respective governments, but the invitation came directly from the Sri Lankan President. He added that India's former Chief Justice, Baghwati was selected in advance by Sri Lanka to lead the IIGEP group.