President Mahinda Rajapakse is expected to announce tomorrow an eight-member commission of inquiry to investigate 15 cases of abduction, disappearance and extra-judicial killing that occurred after August 2005.
These include the Lakshman Kadirgamar killing; the hanging of a family of five in Mannar; the Pesalai incident where the navy is blamed for firing on civilians inside a church; the killing of civilians in Kayts Island; the assassination of five students in Trincomalee; the claymore attack on a civilian bus in Kebetigollewa; the 17 killings of Action Contre la Faim workers in Muttur; the five headless bodies in Avissawella; disappearances of Muslims in Muttur; and the attack on the navy transit camp in Digampathana.
According to informed sources, the commission will be headed by sitting Supreme Court Judge N. K. Udalagama (who is soon to retire). Among its other members will be civil society representatives including Devanesan Nesiah, Manouri Muttetuwegama, Jezima Ismail and Javed Yusuf. They will sit for a period of one year.
The setting up of the commission precedes the formation of an International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) to act as observers into these investigations, authoritative government sources said. The group will be chaired by Justice P N Bhagwati, the former chief justice of India, and is expected to comprise 11 persons. The IIGEP`s mandate would be to observe the inquiry and investigation process of the special commission.
Asked when the IIGEP would be finalised, government sources said the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and Japan as well as the European Union were given two weeks (from Friday) to send in nominations.
Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has sent a list of six names of eminent persons and the government is expected to choose one. Two other names have also been suggested by the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The terms of reference of the eminent group are finalised.
`The governments we have approached are yet to confirm their participation but they were engaged in consultations and have given their observations which were included in the terms of reference,` one source said.
Another government official noted that it is the first time in South Asia that `this kind of hybrid structure is being envisaged`.
`This is a new concept which will not undermine the sovereignty of the country but allow for a transparent scrutiny of human rights abuses,` he pointed out.
The local commission is being set up under domestic laws while the international observer group has negotiated terms of reference which ensure that domestic laws and procedures are not undermined. At the same time, it allows for international transparency.
`It may appeal to many developing countries that are willing to subject themselves to transparency requirements without undermining their own systems,` he said.