French FM Bernard Kouchner postpones Sri Lanka visit

[TamilNet, Sunday, 30 December 2007, 11:55 GMT]
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner who was scheduled to visit Sri Lanka between Christmas and New Year has put off his visit indefinitely, the Sunday Times said. Mr.Kouchner, prior to being appointed FM, was a member of the International Independent Group of Eminent persons (IIGEP) headed by former Chief Justice of India P.N.Bagawathi. The IIGEP concluded, in a meeting held in November, that the "persistent disregard for its observations and recommendations by the Government of Sri Lanka and the Commission of Inquiry tends to render the IIGEP’s continued role irrelevant."

Bernard Kouchner
Bernard Kouchner, French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs
The IIGEP monitoring Sri Lanka's Commission of Inquiries (CoI's) investigation into the killing of the 17 Action Contre La Faim aid workers in Moothoor and the killing of 5 Tamil youths in Trincomalee, in its latest statement had questioned the need for a specific "clarification" issued by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's office stating that the letter at the very least constituted "an interference in the independence of the Commission".

SL President's office had issued a letter to the CoI with a "clarification" saying that the "Commission was relieved" from "in any way to consider, scrutinize, monitor, investigate or inquire into the conduct of the Attorney General or any of his officers with regards to or in relation to any investigation already conducted into the relevant incidents”, while allowing the Commission to "continue to obtain the assistance of officers of the Attorney General’s Department".

Stating that the CoI's work "lacks transparency," and the process "falls short of international norms and standards," the IIGEP reiterated its concerns regarding the Commission’s lack of independence, ineffective witness protection measures and shortcomings in the investigations.

The IIGEP was appointed to monitor the progress of investigations into unlawful killings in Sri Lanka. The IIGEP had submitted two reports to the Government of Sri Lanka criticizing the way it had been conducting investigations into the human rights violations that had been taking place in the island.

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