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Lanka to probe war disappearances

Colombo, July 26 (Reuters): Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, under pressure from the UN and the West to address alleged rights abuses during a nearly three-decade war, ordered an inquiry today into mass disappearances during the war, his office said.

But analysts said any inquiry would have to be credible in order to stave off further criticism of Sri Lanka’s human rights record by western countries and international groups.

Hundreds of people are still missing four years after the end of the war to defeat Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka. Most of the missing are Tamils and the President has resisted calls for an international investigation into what happened to them.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is to visit Sri Lanka next month and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is to take place here in November.

“The President has directed his secretary to take necessary measures to institute a commission to look into disappearances during the conflict period,” presidential spokesman Mohan Samaranayake told Reuters.

“It is the (President’s) secretary who will decide on the terms of reference, who the members will be, the time frame and so on.” Gomin Dayasiri, a lawyer who backed Rajapaksa during the war, said the decision was a part of a plan put into into effect to provide an effective response to queries by the UN.

But Dayan Jayan Jayatilleka, a former diplomat and now an independent analyst, said the President was responding to pressure from abroad and any probe would have to be credible.

“The announcement is clearly coincident with the impending visit of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillai,” he told Reuters.

“The move may lack credibility unless the probe is conducted by respected, independent personalities. It cannot be an in-house matter. For instance, it can’t be coordinated by the secretary to the president.”

 
 
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