South Asia

Indian activist, Pakistan lawyer in Sri Lanka’s missing persons probe panel

An Indian activist and Pakistani lawyer will advise Sri Lanka’s domestic commission investigating complaints pertaining to missing persons, the country’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced on Tuesday.

Avdhash Kaushal, a human rights activist chairing the Dehradun-based NGO Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, and Pakistani legal expert Ahmer B. Soofi will be on the five-member advisory panel, along with British lawyers Desmond de Silva and Geoffrey Nice and American law professor David Crane, who were earlier roped in to be part of the advisory panel.

The panel of international experts was appointed after the presidential commission on missing persons — which has received 20,000 complaints so far — sought assistance in “certain areas of law”, Mr. Rajapaksa told members of the Foreign Correspondents’ Association in Colombo. “It is only an advisory panel. If the Commission wishes, it can take advice from the five of them,” he said.

The move comes just as the team appointed by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights begins an international inquiry into Sri Lanka’s rights record with three experts, including leading Pakistani human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir, advising it.

Observing that the domestic investigation mechanism was no attempt to “replicate or mimic” the ongoing international inquiry — following the U.N. resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council in March — he said: “It is the Commission that sought an expansion of its mandate”. In July Mr. Rajapaksa expanded the mandate of the presidential commission on missing persons, directing it to probe alleged violations of humanitarian law by the LTTE and the army during the civil war.

Indian Foreign Ministry sources however distanced themselves from the development, saying the Indian government had nothing to do with the activist’s appointment.

Modi visit to Sri Lanka

On reports in Sri Lankan media about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s likely visit to the neighbouring island in January, Mr. Rajapaksa said nothing was finalised. “He must come… if the Chinese President can come, Japanese Prime Minister can come, he also [must],” he said, referring to the upcoming visits of the leaders. “I have invited him and I will meet him in November in SAARC. We want him to come here, the people want him to come."

On whether Mr. Modi was likely to come before or after the presidential elections, which many sections in Sri Lanka speculate will be held early next year, he said: “I am not bothered about that. Even after elections, I will be here. I am planning for the next five years.” Mr. Rajapaksa, who will contest the presidential elections for the third consecutive time, added that he had set his eyes on the year 2020, as a milestone for his next term.

On concerns in Tamil Nadu about New Delhi’s diplomacy with Colombo, he said: “I don’t take Tamil Nadu seriously. It’s all politics.”

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 2:52:00 PM |

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