Missing personsPresident Mahinda Rajapaksa has expanded the mandate of the Presidential Commission on mission persons and appointed three international experts to advice the commission.

In a Gazette notification, President’s Secretary Lalith Weerathunga said that the President is of the opinion that the Commission of Inquiry should have the benefit of the advice of distinguished international experts, whose internationally recognized expertise and experience encompasses legal and other relevant dimensions of the matters covered in the mandate.

Accordingly the President named Sir Desmond de Silva, QC (Chairman), Sir Geoffrey Nice, QC and Prof. David Crane as the three experts to advice the commission.

The experts will serve on an Advisory Council to the Commission of Inquiry to which the President says he may appoint other experts as may be required from time to time, to advise the Chairman and Members of the Commission of Inquiry, at their request, on matters pertaining to the work of the Commission.

Sir Desmond has developed a vast experience before international criminal tribunals in relation to the gravest of international crimes while Sir Geoffrey Nice led the prosecution in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic at the international tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

The Mission Persons Commission has now been tasked with investigating and reporting on on 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.

The Commission will also investigate if 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.

The appointment of the experts and expanding of the mandate of the Commission comes after the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) launched its own investigation on the war and appointed three experts to oversee the probe. (Colombo Gazette)

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