Sri Lanka disappearances probe panel term extended

COLOMBO: The term of a Sri Lankan government-appointed panel probing the cases of missing persons during the three-decade war with the LTTE has been extended by nearly seven months. President Mahinda Rajapaksa extended the term of the commission investigating disappearances in the North and East until February 15, 2015. Its term was to expire at the end of this month, said commission’s secretary HW Gunadasa.

Rajapaksa yesterday announced he may add three more international experts to the existing three-member panel. Last month, he had named a three-member international advisory panel comprising Sir Desmond de Silva, Sir Geoffrey Nice and Professor David Crane to advise the disappearances commission headed by ex-Sri Lankan judge Maxwell Paranagama.

The members of the panel Desmonde Silva and Nice are from Britain while David Crane is a US national. The probe panel was set up in August 2013 and mandated to probe disappearances of persons between 1990 to May 2009 when the war with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended. It was set up as a recommendation of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which again was Sri Lanka’s answer to calls for reconciliation with the Tamil minority after the end of the bitterly fought conflict.

Sri Lanka faces an international probe over allegations that government forces killed about 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final months of fighting, a charge refuted by Colombo. The panel has so far entertained nearly 19,000 complaints, including from the members of the LTTE and the government troops.

Alongside the appointment of the experts, the mandate of the disappearances commission was also expanded to include if any person, group or institution had been responsible for any violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law. The UNHRC in late March had mandated the appointment of an international investigation team to probe Sri Lanka’s rights accountability.

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