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‘Lessons Learned committee announced by Rajapaksa cannot be trusted’

[TamilNet, Thursday, 3 June 2010 08:16 No Comment]

Kandy district United National Party (UNP) parliamentarian Luxman Kiriella on Wednesday said that the 8-member Commission on Lessons Learned and Reconciliation (CLLR), recently announced by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, cannot be trusted to achieve the goals it claims. Citing the fate of the earlier 8-member presidential Commission on Inquiry (CoI) to inquire human rights violations headed by a former Supreme Court judge Nissanka Udalagama, the UNP parliamentarian said the new commission also seemed to be a deceptive measure adopted by Mr. Rajapaksa to avoid implication in allegations against war crimes.

Rajapaksa has recently announced the new commission, CLLR, to report lessons learned from the events that took place during the period between 21 February 2002 and 19 May 2009.

Responding to Rajapaksa’s announcement, UN Rights Chief Navi Pillay, who noted previous experience and new information, responded by saying that such objectives would be better served by establishing an independent international accountability mechanism that would enjoy public confidence.

Elaine Pearson, the acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch noted: "Yet another feckless commission is a grossly inadequate response to the numerous credible allegations of war crimes."

The previous commission by Rajapaksa came in the aftermath of international outrage over the execution-style killing of 17 aid workers from the French-based Action Contre la Faim (ACF) in eastern Moothoor, in August 2006.

On 04 September 2006, Rajapaksa initially announced that his government would "invite an international independent commission to probe abductions, disappearances and extra-judicial killings."

However, within two days of his announcement, he deviated from the claim saying that he would instead invite an International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) ‘to act as observers’ of the activities of the Commission consisting of ‘Sri Lankan nationals,’ which will investigate alleged abductions, disappearances and extra judicial killings.

In November 2006, Rajapaksa set up the Commission of Inquiry (COI), which was later referred in Sri Lankan press as Udalagama Commission.

Rights groups, such as Amnesty International, have criticized from the very beginning that the Commission of Inquiries (CoI) lacked credibility and confidence of parties to the conflict and sections of the society to be able to conduct meaningful investigations, obtain critical testimony or information from witnesses and gain the acceptance of its recommendations by all relevant parties.

The IIGEP, consisting 11 members meant to monitor the CoI was fully formed in February 2007.

An year later, in March 2008, the IIGEP terminated its mission reasoning that the proceedings of the CoI have not been transparent and have not satisfied basic international norms and standards, and blamed the Government of Sri Lanka for "absence of will" in the present Inquiry to "investigate cases with vigour, where the conduct of its own forces has been called into question."

One more year passed and the Udalagama commission ceased to function without completing its mandate as its term was not extended.

[Full Coverage]

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