◾Experts say Govt. asked them to advise ‘local commission probing alleged war crimes by all parties to conflict’ ◾‘Coming in with an open mind’: Ex-UN war crimes prosecutor David Crane ◾Foreign advisors to seek clarification on disputed matters from Govt. and Army
Three top international war crimes prosecutors tasked with advising a presidential commission investigating civilian deaths during the war will study the UN Panel of Experts Report and seek clarification from the Government and the military about disputed matters.
“We have been asked by the Government of Sri Lanka to advise a local Commission investigating allegations of war crimes against all parties to the conflict,” Sir Geoffrey Nice, QC told the Daily FT by email yesterday.
The former Deputy Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, who was involved in the Slobodan Milosevic trial, will be one of three international experts advising the Presidential Commission of Inquiry.
“We will, of course, study all material in the public domain and the Report of the UN Panel of experts. We will also seek clarification from the Sri Lankan Government and Army on matters we feel are in dispute,” Sir Geoffrey added.
Professor David Crane, the former Chief Prosecutor of the UN backed Special Court Sierra Leone told the Daily FT that he was aware of the Sri Lankan civil war and its “challenges and allegations”.
He echoed the sentiments of Sir Geoffrey that the advisors group convened by President Mahinda Rajapaksa would study all material about the allegations currently in the public domain.
“I come into this appointment with an open mind ready to provide my legal advice as appropriate,” Professor Crane said responding to an email from the Daily FT about the advisors’ role in the domestic probe.
Sir Desmond De Silva and Sir Geoffrey Nice, Queens Counsels, and Professor David Crane were appointed by President Rajapaksa last week to offer expert advice to the Presidential Commission on Disappearances.
The three-man Commission led by former High Court Judge Maxwell Paranagama had its mandate has been broadened by Presidential Proclamation, to probe deaths of civilians in the No Fire Zone in 2009 and the conduct of the military during that period of conflict.
The Government however made it clear soon after the announcement that the expert advisors appointed by President Rajapaksa would have no role in the investigations.
“They will offer advice. It is up to us to decide if we want to take it,” Government Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told journalists at the weekly Cabinet briefing last Thursday, soon after the announcement was made.
The Government has been under intense pressure internationally to establish a credible domestic process to investigate alleged abuses during the final stages of the war.
The extended mandate of the missing peoples Commission now includes inquiring into and reporting on matters under Paragraph 4: 359 of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report, a section that deals specifically with the deaths and injuries caused to civilians in exchanges of fire within the military designated No Fire Zones, in the last days of the fighting in 2009.
The Commissioners will also look into the “adherence to or neglect of the principles of distinction, military necessity and proportionality under the laws of armed conflict and international humanitarian law, by the Sri Lankan armed forces,” the Proclamation ordered.
Sir Geoffrey told Daily FT that he has had the pleasure of working with Sir Desmond De Silva and Professor Crane previously. The three co-authored a report on Syrian detainees earlier this year.
“Our joint Report on Torture and Executions in Syria is before the UNHRC and the Security Council,” he explained.
Dr. Crane personally briefed the UN Security Council in April this year and the UN Human Rights Council in June, on the alleged war crimes being committed in Syria.