International human rights panel accuses Sri Lanka of
interference in human rights investigation, 19 December
Sri Lanka Response ]
Associated Press, Wed December 19, 2007 09:03 EST . COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) An
international human rights panel on Wednesday accused Sri Lankan President
Mahinda Rajapakse's office of interfering with an investigation into alleged
rights abuses and a series of unresolved killings in this war-torn nation.
The government came under increasing international pressure following a series
of high-profile killings that occurred over the last two years as fighting
flared between government troops and Tamil separatists. The killings included
the execution-style slaying last year of 17 local workers from the aid group
Action Against Hunger in eastern Sri Lanka.
In an effort to blunt the criticism, Rajapakse appointed an international panel
of ``eminent persons'' last year to oversee a government commission
investigating that incident and 15 others, including a 2006 airstrike that
reportedly killed 51 school girls and the 2005 assassination of former Foreign
Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, allegedly by Tamil rebels.
The panel, known as the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons, said
Wednesday a letter sent from the president's office last month said the
government commission should no longer ``consider, scrutinize, monitor,
investigate or inquire into the conduct'' of the attorney general or his
``This statement at the very least constitutes an interference in the
independence of the commission,'' the panel said in its release Wednesday.
The group also said the commission process ``falls short of international norms
and standards'' and is not transparent.
There was no immediate comment from the president's office.
The panel also criticized the commission for keeping the public out of the
inquiries, barring even the victims' families. ``The IIGEP reiterates its
concerns regarding the commission's lack of independence, ineffective witness
protection measures and shortcomings in the investigations,'' the statement
Hundreds of civilians have been killed and many more remain unaccounted for
after being arrested by government forces or abducted by unknown parties in a
new wave of violence over the last two years.