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SL’s probe into rights abuses a joke?

July 16, 2009

Reuters : Sri Lanka rights probe hampered, commission’s head says
Sri Lanka’s probe into rights abuses including the killing of 17 aid workers in 2006 was hampered by the lack of witness protection and its abrupt winding-up, the commission’s head said on Tuesday.

On Aug. 4, 2006, 17 mostly Tamil staff members of charity Action Contre la Faim (ACF) were gunned down inside the ACF compound in the northeastern town of Muttur, near where fighting was taking place between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels.

…Nordic peace monitors whom the government accused of a pro-rebel bias blamed the attack on security forces.

…Foreign observers to the panel two years ago predicted the commission would fail to find anything substantive and quit last year, saying it did not meet international standards and had been interfered with politically. The government denies that.

The commission’s mandate was not extended when it expired in June, making it the latest in Sri Lanka’s long history of probes into rights abuses that were incomplete or inconclusive.

“We have not been able to complete the whole thing because we didn’t have the video conferencing facility and a witness protection bill…is still in parliament,” retired Supreme Court Judge Nissanka Udalagama told Reuters.

A number of witnesses have fled the country in fear for their lives, and video-conferencing was needed to contact witnesses who live abroad, he said.

…Sri Lanka has a long history of failing to prosecute rights abuses, particularly when members of the security forces are involved, going back to the early 1970s when the government violently suppressed a Marxist insurrection. (Editing by Bryson Hull)
Read article here.

Associated Press : No Sri Lankan troops near 2006 aid worker massacre
The Sri Lankan military was not operating in the area when 17 workers for a French aid agency were gunned down execution-style in 2006, the chairman of a government commission investigating the massacre said Tuesday.

…At the time of the killings, European monitors said they were “convinced” government troops were involved. The government denied the charge and accused Tamil Tiger rebels of involvement.

…Rights groups have accused the government of failing to seriously investigate reported abuses during the 25-year war and have called for an international commission to probe abuse allegations. The government has repeatedly rejected such calls as a violation of its sovereignty.

The presidential commission was assigned two years ago to investigate 16 cases of alleged abuses by both sides in the war, but only managed to complete seven cases. Udalagama said it could not finish its investigation as its mandate expired last month.
Read full article here.

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