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Human rights groups decline to depose before Lankan panel

world Updated: Oct 18, 2010 18:07 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
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Global human rights groups have declined to appear before a Sri Lankan government-appointed panel looking into the civil war saying that it lacked credibility and was unlikely to carry out an independent probe.

A joint letter from Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group said the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa did not ``meet international standards for independent and impartial inquiries.’’

Rajapaksa appointed the seven-member LLRC in May to probe the failure of the Norway-brokered ceasefire between Colombo and the Tamil Tigers and the months of fighting that followed.

Subsequently, the Commission invited national and international organisations to depose before it.

But the government panel also came under criticism from the international community including the United Nations which wanted an international investigation into the alleged cases of civilian deaths as the war ended in May, 2009.

"The LLRC's mandate, its composition, its procedures, and the human rights environment in which it is operating all conspire to make a safe and satisfactory outcome for victims of human rights violations and their families extremely unlikely," AI said in a statement.

It added that ``like its predecessors, the LLRC exists against a backdrop of continuing government failure to address accountability and continuing human rights abuses.’’ IN a 2009 report, titled `Twenty Years of Make-believe; Sri Lanka's Commissions of Inquiry’, the AI had claimed to have documented ``Sri Lanka's long history of impunity and the failed Presidential Commission of Inquiry.’’

"AI is particularly concerned about the lack of any provisions for witness protection and the fact that former officials who have publicly defended the Sri Lankan government against allegations of war crimes serve on the commission." The LLRC secretary, A.B. Atugoda, however, told *Associated Press* that the commission's independence and impartiality "must be judged by the performance of the commission and not on the basis of preconceived notions."