Sri Lanka plans new probe of abductions; invites international observers
Sun November 5, 2006 04:46 EST .
Associated Press Writer
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ The Sri Lankan government said Sunday it is launching a new probe into a spate of disappearances that Tamil Tiger rebels and a rights group say were the work of pro-government forces amid a resurgence of fighting in a brutal separatist war.
The government appointed a retired judge in September to conduct an earlier investigation, but the judge has yet to submit his report.
The work of the new commission, headed by a Sri Lankan Supreme Court judge, will be observed by an 11-member group of international observers, chief government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told The Associated Press.
The life of the commission will be for one year, but the government expects to have a report of its findings as soon as possible, Rambukwella said. He gave no time frame.
It was not immediately clear how the new probe would fit with the one by the retired judge.
Among the foreign observers invited is a former Indian Supreme Court chief justice, P.N. Bhagwati, Rambukwella said.
The government has also asked the United States, Britain, the European Union, Canada, Australia and Japan to nominate members for the international observers group.
``This is the first time that our government is going for such a high-profile investigation,'' Rambukwella said.
The Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission, a private group, has said at least 400 Tamil youth have gone missing from Tamil-majority northern Jaffna peninsula since December.
Another 38 people, including some ethnic-majority Sinhalese, have been abducted from Colombo, relatives say.
Last month, the Asian Human Rights Commission, a private group based in Hong Kong, accused the Sri Lankan government of abducting suspected insurgents from the Tamil Tiger separatist group to weaken the campaign.
``This is totally untrue. The government is not involved in any way,'' Rambukwella said.
The rebels also have accused the military in most of the abductions.
``In Jaffna, it is the military intelligence which is behind most of the abductions,'' rebel spokesman Daya Master said Sunday by telephone from the rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi.
``The government also wants the investigation to be truly transparent, therefore we are inviting foreign observers,'' Rambukwella said, adding that President Mahinda Rajapakse was eager that ``the perpetrators are brought to justice.''
Tamil Tiger rebels have been fighting since 1983 to create a separate ethnic Tamil state. Some 67,000 people have been killed in the conflict and 1.6 million displaced. A 2002 cease-fire all but collapsed this year with almost daily killings.
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Published: Sun Nov 5 05:37:06 EST 2006