Indian on Sri Lanka probe panel

Avdhash Kaushal to advise commission on missing persons

Published - August 12, 2014 12:14 am IST - COLOMBO:

Avdhash Kaushal in a file photo.

Avdhash Kaushal in a file photo.

The Sri Lankan government has invited an Indian activist to a panel advising its Presidential Commission on missing persons, it is reliably learnt.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has decided to expand the panel of international experts, according to Presidential spokesperson Mohan Samaranayake. “Some names are being considered, but they have not been finalised,” he told The Hindu on Monday.

Dehradun-based NGO

According to reliable sources, the Sri Lankan government has roped in Avdhash Kaushal of Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK), a Dehradun-based NGO. Confirming that he received a call from President Rajapaksa’s office in this connection, he told The Hindu over telephone: “The President himself spoke to me, inviting me to be on this panel. I asked for the terms and I was too happy to be part of it.” President Rajapaksa, according to him, visited the organisation in Dehradun on his invitation. “Over 20 Sri Lankans pursued a course in Human Rights offered by us.”

In July, President Mahinda Rajapaksa expanded the mandate of the Commission — originally set up to look into complaints of enforced disappearances — directing it to probe the roles of Sri Lankan army and the rebel Tigers during the civil war. The move surprised many, for it seemed like a shift from the Sri Lankan government’s earlier claim that its army was engaged in a completely “humanitarian operation”. British lawyers Desmond de Silva and Geoffrey Nice and U.S. law professor David Crane were roped in to be part of the advisory panel. More recently, local media reported the President’s decision to expand the panel.

The inclusion of an Indian activist was possibly based on a private interaction and did not reflect the Indian government’s position, according to sources in the Indian High Commission here. “We have nothing to do with this,” a senior official remarked.

The developments come in the wake of a U.N. probe into Sri Lanka’s rights record, following a resolution at the Human Rights Council in March. The Sri Lankan government, which declared that it would not cooperate in the process, initiated its own mechanism to probe allegations of war crimes.

U.N. Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay has said the U.N. could conduct an effective investigation into reports of war crimes in Sri Lanka without visiting the country, a Reuters report said on Monday. Citing Syria and North Korea as examples where, despite no access, investigations were carried out, Ms. Pillay said: “There is a wealth of information outside of Sri Lanka which can be tapped into.”

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