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Government's Credibility Will Be Strengthened Through Uniformity of Actions--jehan Perera

Government's Credibility Will Be Strengthened Through Uniformity of Actions--jehan Perera

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Published by: Thavam on Jul 21, 2014
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07/21/2014

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The government’s decision to invite threeeminent international legal experts on human rights and war crimes to advise its Commission of Inquiry into Missing Persons was unexpected. It caught even senior cabinet ministers by surprise. The government had been steadfast in denying that serious human rights violations and war crimes too place from the commencement of such allegations more than five years ago. !o far all inquiries conducted by the government have reaffirmed the government’s position that no such offenses too place. "ut as those have been a case of the military investigating the military and exonerating the military# the inquiries have not been internationally credible. The appointment of the independent $% investigative team to probe into these matters following the resolution passed by the $% &uman 'ights Council in March of this year appears to have (olted the government to reconsider its past position.It is noteworthy that the $%&'C resolution of March )*+, had two operative parts to it. The first was to call for an investigation into the past by the !ri -anan government that met with international standards. The second was to call for the ffice of the $% &uman 'ights Commissioner to commence an independent investigation if the !ri -anan government failed to carry out such an investigation itself. The appointment of the experts and expanding of the mandate of the Commission comes after the ffice of the &igh Commissioner for &uman 'ights launched its own investigation on the war and appointed three experts# also of the highest international calibre and credibility# to oversee the probe. %ow by appointing its own three member advisory panel# the government seems to be striving to operationalise the first part of the $%&'C resolution with the hope of diminishing the need for the implementation of the second part.
Created on 21 July 2014
 
The government appointed advisory panel is of the highest competence and credibility.Its three members are !ir /esmond de !ilva# 0ueen’s Counsel# a prominent "ritish lawyer and a former Chief 1ar Crimes Prosecutor at the $% Tribunal for !ierra -eone#who is also of !ri -anan origin and will be Chairman2 Professor !ir 3eoffrey %ice# a "ritish lawyer who headed the trial of !lobodan Milosevic at the international tribunal for the former 4ugoslavia in the &ague2 and Professor /avid Crane of the $nited !tates who was the Chief Prosecutor of the !pecial Court for !ierra -eone# and who indicted# among others# the then -iberian President Charles Taylor. In revamping the mandate and term of reference of the Commission on Missing Persons# the government has reserved the right to expand the numbers in the advisory panel which is a possible point of controversy if future appointments are less credible.!C5PTIC6- 6!!5!!M5%T!The three international experts will serve on an 6dvisory Council to the Commission of Inquiry to advise it# at their request# on matters pertaining to the wor of the Commission. In addition# the government has expanded the mandate of the Commission on Missing Persons to include the facts and circumstances regarding the loss of civilian life during the war# and whether any person# group or institution directly or indirectly bears responsibility in this regard by reason of a violation or violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law. 6lso to inquire whether the adherence to or neglect of the principles of distinction# military necessity and proportionality under the laws of armed conflict and international humanitarian law# by the !ri -anan armed forces and whether the -TT5 as a non7state actor was sub(ect to international humanitarian law in the conduct of its military operations.The question is whether the Commission on Missing Persons which had a more restricted mandate will be able to cope with the much wider mandate that has now been cast upon them. !o far they have been doing their investigations with quiet determination. The Commission held several sittings to cover the districts of 8affna# 9ilinochchi# Mulaithivu and "atticaloa and has received over +:#*** complaints. &owever# those who are septical about the government’s motivations in appointing the advisory panel would remember the experience of another commission of inquiry in the past. This was the International Independent 5minent 3roup of Persons ;II53P< which was appointed in )**= to advise the Commission of Inquiry into !erious &uman 'ights >iolations. The II35P# comprising of ++ members was invited by the President to observe the investigations and inquiries of the Commission of Inquiry# in order to ensure transparency and observance of international norms and standards. The II35Pterminated its operations after a year citing lac of progress in the investigations. There is no doubt that the government would be mindful of this debacle and the higher staes that exist at this time# with a parallel independent $% investigation taing place.There is another matter that the government needs to consider seriously. This is whether it can deal in compartments with different issues# and achieve international standards in looing at the past while failing to reach those standards in dealing with
 
issues of governance within the country at the present time. !ince the end of the war# impunity has been most mared in regard to violence and harassment against the Muslim community and undertaen by groups that are seen as allied to the government. The government has also been restricting the freedom of civil society groups in a manner that goes counter to international standards. Most significant of all is its failure to stand by its commitments with regard to the devolution of power. This is a serious problem as a reconciliation process cannot run on parallel tracs# where internationally the government shows itself to be a in a reconciliatory mode# while within the country there is confrontation and antagonism. The situation on the ground will be seen by all who are interested in !ri -ana and will undermine their belief in thesincerity of the reconciliation process.!$T& 6?'IC6There was anticipation of a breathrough in the reconciliation process following the visit to !ri -ana of !outh 6frican special envoy Cyril 'amaphosa. &owever# the government failed to show any shift in its approach to addressing the issue of national reconciliation. %o sooner did Mr 'amaphosa leave !ri -ana that the government extended the term of the 3overnor of the %orthern Province# although the T%6 has been consistently asing for a replacement who will cooperate with the Chief Minister and the %orthern Provincial Council instead of acting in opposition to them. The reappointment of the 3overnor of the %orthern Province is seen by some of the ey actors in the international community as a violation of a pledge given to them by the government. In particular# when President 'a(apasa pledged to hold elections to the %orthern Provincial Council he also gave assurances that he would appoint a new 3overnor. &e delivered on one part of the promise but not on the other.In the aftermath of the 'amaphosa visit there has been no publicly visible manifestation of the spirit of accommodation or goodwill that is necessary for any reconciliation process. The role of !outh 6frica would be to ensure that there will be fair play to all sides# not only targeting the government. !uch a partnership with !outh  6frica in pursuing the path of truth and reconciliation can go a considerable part of the way to support a nationally driven process of truth and reconciliation that feeds into international investigations. The only item of discussion between the government and Mr 'amaphosa that has become public from the government side is that the government requested him to persuade the T%6 to (oin the P!C process. The Ministry of 5xternal 6ffairs website stated that @The government ased Mr. 'amaphosa during his visit to !ri -ana to convince the T%6 of the importance of participating in the P!C process for a solution to the national question.AThe P!C remains the government’s chosen mechanism to pursue a political solution to the national question. The government remains adamant in its position that only a discussion by all political parties represented in Parliament can lead to a political solution. &owever# the opposition parties that are presently boycotting the P!C remainunconvinced that it will lead to a solution being found. They are mindful of the fate of the 6ll Parties 'epresentatives Conference ;6P'C< that lasted nearly three years

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