Missing Persons Commission gets international panel to investigate war crimes
Posted on July 18th, 2014

Sri Lanka News

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has broadened the scope of the mandate given to the Presidential Commission to Investigate into Complaints Regarding Missing Persons and possible war crimes, appointed a three-member international panel of experts to advise the Commission.

Three legal experts – two Britons and a U.S. national – were appointed as part of an international advisory panel linked to the presidential commission set up last year to conduct the inquiry.

But a government spokesman made clear that whatever recommendations the panel might make, the island nation’s authorities were free to accept or reject them.

“This is just to advise the commission. We can decide whether to accept the advice or to set it aside,” government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told a news conference.

The President is of the opinion that the Commission to Investigate Missing Persons should have the benefit of the advice of distinguished international experts, whose internationally recognised expertise and experience encompasses legal and other relevant dimensions of the related matters and has decided to extend the scope of the mandate of the Commission.

The enhanced mandate of the Commission, issued by Proclamation by the President of Sri Lanka, and published under Gazette Notification 1871/18 dated July 15, 2014, seeks to, inter alia, inquire into and report on several matters contained under paragraph 4.359 of the Report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which the Commission has deemed as requiring further inquiry. The President has appointed the following three eminent persons of international repute to serve

on an Advisory Council to the Commission of Inquiry: They are Rt. Hon. Sir Desmond de Silva, QC (Chairman), Sir Geoffrey Nice, QC, Prof. David Crane The Advisory Council will advise the Commission, at their request, and may include other experts appointed by the President as and when necessary.

The three-member Commission, comprising Maxwell Parakrama Paranagama (Chairman), Suranjana Vidyaratne and Mano Ramanathan, was appointed in August 2013 and has been given the authority to conduct inquiries and investigations into complaints of missing persons, and submit a report to the President. In February of this year, President Rajapaksa extended the mandate of the Commission by six months to August 12, 2014.

The Advisory Council is tasked with advising the Chairman and Members of the Commission of Inquiry, at their request, on matters pertaining to the work of the Commission.

The Commission of Inquiry was appointed to investigate and report on the following specific issues:

i. The principal facts and circumstances that led to the loss of civilian life during the internal armed conflict that ended on the 19th May 2009, 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.

ii. Whether such loss of civilian life is capable of constituting collateral damage of a kind that occurs in the prosecution of proportionate attacks against targeted military objectives in armed conflicts and is expressly recognized under the laws of armed conflict and international humanitarian law, and whether such civilian casualties were either the deliberate or unintended consequence of the rules of engagement during the said armed conflict in Sri Lanka.

iii. 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 Sri Lankan armed forces.

iv. Whether the LTTE as a non-state actor was subject to international humanitarian law in the conduct of its military operations.

v. The use by the LTTE of civilians as human shields and the extent to which such action constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law or international human rights law, and did or may have significantly contributed to the loss of civilian life.

vi. The role played, if any, by foreign governments in training, financing, and arming the LTTE or other armed groups.

B. The recruitment of child soldiers by the LTTE or illegal armed groups affiliated with the LTTE or any political party in violation of international humanitarian law or international human rights law.

C. International criminal activities of the LTTE and the application of financial and other resources obtained through such illegal activeties in the prosecution of the conventional and guerilla war in Sri Lanka by the LTTE.

D. The suicide attacks by LTTE using child soldiers and other combatants under the direct orders of the leader of the LTTE, Velupillai Prabhakaran or any persons acting on his behalf, and the culpability for such actions under international humanitarian law or international human rights law.

Sir Desmond de Silva an internationally acclaimed Sri Lankan is a prominent British lawyer, and former United Nations Chief War Crimes Prosecutor in Sierra Leone.

Sir Geoffrey Nice worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia – the ICTY – between 1998 and 2006.

Prof. David M. Crane an American lawyer was the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) from April 2002 until July 15, 2005. (PRIU)

Rt Hon Sir Desmond de Silva, QC

Rt Hon Sir Desmond de Silva, QC, (Chairman) is a world authority on the law of armed conflict. He was personally picked by Kofi Annan, the last Secretary General of the United Nations, to be the Chief Prosecutor of a UN sponsored international criminal court.

Sir Desmond is the grandson of the late George E. De Silva, one of the founding fathers of Sri Lankan independence, and the Minister of Health during the Second World War.

Sir Desmond’s father, Fred E De Silva, followed his father George as the MP for Kandy and proceeded to become Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to France and Switzerland.

Sir Desmond commands a large legal practice in London and for 25 years was the head of one of London’s oldest sets of Chambers once headed by the legendary Sir Dingle Foot, QC. Having followed in the distinguished legal footsteps of his father and grandfather, Sir Desmond was Knighted by The Queen in 2007 for his extraordinary contribution to International Law.

In 2011, he was made a Member of Her Majesty’s Privy Council. His wide practice has, over the past decade, involved cases that concerned States, Heads of States and Heads of Governments.

He famously achieved the acquittal in Kenya of a defendant facing the death penalty who then went on to become the last Prime Minister of Kenya.

The London Times Newspaper has credited him with saving more people from execution in the Commonwealth than any other member of the UK Bar.

The British Government in 2010, appointed him to chair a highly sensitive Review into the British

Security Services and their conduct in Northern Ireland during the conflict between the IRA and the British forces.

Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice, QC

Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice, QC, (Member) is the Gresham Professor of International Law in London. He was the lead Prosecutor in the case of the late President Milosevic of Serbia at The Hague. He is an outstanding international lawyer with considerable experience before international criminal courts.

Professor David Crane

Professor David Crane (Member) was personally picked by Kofi Annan to be the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and was also appointed at a level of Under Secretary General of the United Nations. Crane was responsible for the indictment, arrest and prosecution of President Charles Taylor of Liberia who is currently serving 50 years imprisonment for war crimes. Crane also has considerable experience in the US military.

In June 2014, Professor Crane together with Sir Desmond appeared in a Chamber of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on the issue of the torture and killing of detainees in Syrian detention centres.


2 Responses to “Missing Persons Commission gets international panel to investigate war crimes”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    A GOOD move but will they also turn against SL?

    Money talks and LTTE RUMP has $1.5 billion money ($300 a year times 5 years). Hope they do a professional job.

    Serbia and Sierra Leone are BAD cases of justice. The courts were partial.

  2. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    Regarding the following quote: “Whether the LTTE as a non-state actor was subject to international humanitarian law in the conduct of its military operations.” That is similar to asking whether Colombo was a “non-state actor”. The LTTE had a government, with a police system, postal system, media, including a navy, air force and a standing military. Of course they were a state. The only issue was that they could not claim statehood using the northern and eastern provinces.

    Instead of debating this issue handle the LTTE as an organized “state” with an established military. the use of the term “terrorists” actually is a disfavor to those who fought the LTTE. They also go support from foreign governments such as New Delhi and the state government of Tamil Nadu to the city government of Chennai.

    till recently when the Sri Lankan courts challenged the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) of having language in their manifesto that supported a separate state the TNA continued to legally represent the defeated LTTE.

    If this panel does not think the LTTE as a state and it still remains as a question then the inquiry is flawed and a flawed inquiry would by its nature simply investigate and accuse Colombo.

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