Sri Lankan probe into civilian killings has few results after 18 months of work
Thu March 27, 2008 08:43 EDT .
RAVI NESSMAN - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Nearly 18 months after Sri Lanka - launched an independent investigation into a wave of civilian killings during its renewed civil war, not a single case has been resolved and some human rights groups and lawyers fear no one will ever be held accountable. Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona said the government was working to allay witness' fears with a protection bill currently in Sri Lanka - 's parliament. The commission also recently allowed some witnesses to testify by video link from abroad, he said.
``The government established this commission, so it's in its own interest to see that this commission succeeds,'' he said.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa created the commission in November 2006 after months of renewed fighting between government forces and ethnic Tamil minority separatists to look into 16 well-known human rights cases, many involving civilian deaths.
Rajapaksa also appointed an International Independent Group of Eminent Persons, 11 foreign experts, to advise the commission and give it international credibility.
Little progress has been made in any of the cases over the past 1 1/2 years, however.
Earlier this month the international advisory panel announced it was resigning in frustration, accusing the government of lacking the political will to investigate the incidents and saying the probe fell far short of international standards.
The commission was not properly funded or staffed and was marred by conflicts of interests, the panel said in a statement. It said the hearings were poorly organized and security officials refused to cooperate.
Ratnavale, the lawyer representing the slain aid workers, said that the security forces have taken advantage of key witnesses' reluctance to testify by producing meaningless witnesses to waste time and further bog down the investigation. He said no one may ever be held accountable.
``These are all diversionary tactics by the government to cover up,'' he said.
Commission Chairman Nissanka Udalagama said that it took time to establish the infrastructure for the investigation and that he does not believe the delays have damaged its credibility.
``The people who understand the time-consuming legal process won't comment like that,'' he said. ``An inquiry takes a long time.''
With hard work and full government support, the investigation could be brought up to international standards and reach a credible conclusion, said Darusman, the member of the departing international panel.
``So far, according to us, they've fallen short of that,'' he said.Discuss this story
Published: Thu Mar 27 10:15:05 EDT 2008