Commission had troubled relationship with international experts

shadow boxingEven as Sri Lanka continues to debate the nature and extent of participation of foreign judges in the proposed judicial mechanism to go into allegations of human rights violations, a report of the Udalagama Commission (2006-2009) has shed more light on the panel’s troubled relationship with a group of international experts.

Calling the invitation to the experts a “unique feature,” the Commission, in its report of May 2009, stated that from the beginning, the group, “for reasons best known” to it, displayed a “critical attitude,” which was not conducive to the maintenance of harmonious relations with the Commission.

Known as the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP), the group was headed by P.N. Bhagwati, former Chief Justice of India, and 10 others from various countries. The IIGEP, whose brief was to oversee the Commission’s working, functioned for a year (February 2007-March 2008). While announcing its decision to terminate its operations, the Group had listed “lack of transparency and timeliness of the proceedings,” “lack of financial independence of the Commission,” and “conflict of interest at all levels, in particular with regard to the role of the Attorney General’s Department” as the reasons for its move.

While rebutting the issues individually, the Commission had attributed the misunderstanding basically to the non-participation of members of the Group in a “majority of sessions” of the Commission and the reliance of the members on reports of their assistants. “Had the IIGEP tried to understand the constraints” of the panel and “worked consensually,” the hands of the Commission would have been strengthened. “Instead, they [IIGEP] adopted a hostile attitude and left prematurely, probably misled by the advice of their assistants.”

One of the members of the Group, Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia, chaired the UN Secretary General’s panel of experts during September 2010-March 2011 and came out with a report that pointed to the possibility of 40,000 civilians having been killed in the final phase of the Eelam War. This finding has been rejected by another panel, the Paranagama Commission. (The Hindu)

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